Testing is a Wake-up Call to the World
by David Krieger*, May 1998
tests are a wake-up call to the world, and particularly to the
nuclear weapons states. The meeting of the parties to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in Geneva, which concluded on May
8th, attracted near zero press attention and achieved near zero
results. It was virtually a non-event. On the other hand, India's
tests three days later immediately got the world's attention.
The message of India's tests is that
we can have a world in which many countries have nuclear weapons
or a world in which no countries have nuclear weapons, but we
will not have a world in which only the five permanent members
of the UN Security Council plus Israel retain nuclear weapons
in perpetuity. India has long argued that it is unwilling to give
up its nuclear weapons option so long as the current nuclear weapons
states fail to make a commitment to eliminate their nuclear arsenals
within a timebound framework. The Indians underlined this position
in 1996 when they refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Following their recent nuclear tests, however,
the Indians have offered to sign the CTBT, but only if the nuclear
weapons states agree to eliminate their nuclear arsenals within
a timebound framework and cease all subcritical and laboratory
nuclear weapons testing. The Indian position is reasonable. They
are calling for a world in which no state, including themselves,
has nuclear weapons.
What is not reasonable is the way in which the
nuclear weapons states and their allies have treated India's position
as non-negotiable. The nuclear weapons states have consistently
failed to this day to show the good faith in seeking nuclear disarmament
that they promised in 1968 in Article VI of the NPT.
Ironically, the only nuclear weapons state to consistently
call for nuclear weapons abolition is China, but it, too, has
been rebuffed by the other nuclear weapons states. It is ironic
because India's testing was, at least in part, a response to China's
possession and improvement of its nuclear arsenal.
Despite their promises in 1995 for the determined
pursuit of systematic and progressive efforts to achieve nuclear
disarmament, the nuclear weapons states have been largely impeding
nuclear disarmament. If they are serious about stopping India,
Pakistan and other states from becoming full fledged nuclear powers,
they had better reverse their course of action and begin serious
and good faith negotiations to rid the world of nuclear arms.
This is the only course of action with a chance of success to
prevent nuclear weapons proliferation.
The knee-jerk reaction of the U.S., Japan and other
industrialized states to impose economic sanctions on India will
not stop the Indians from developing a nuclear arsenal. It will
only result in greater hostility in a world divided not only between
rich and poor, but also between nuclear "haves" and
India's testing is not only an Indian problem.
It is a problem of the international system that leads the country
of Gandhi to follow a nuclear weapons path. There is only one
way out of the dilemma, and that is a commitment by all nuclear
weapons states SQ now including India SQ to the abolition of their
nuclear arsenals. According to a 1996 unanimous opinion of the
International Court of Justice, the complete elimination of their
nuclear arsenals is the legal obligation of the nuclear weapons
states under international law.
Nuclear weapons abolition is also the solution
called for by military and civilian leaders and citizen action
groups throughout the world. The Abolition 2000 Statement of over
1000 citizens organizations around the world calls upon the nuclear
weapons states to "Initiate immediately and conclude by the
year 2000 negotiations on a nuclear weapons abolition convention
that requires the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons within
a timebound framework with provisions for effective verification
In crisis there is opportunity. If India's nuclear
tests lead to sufficient pressure on the nuclear weapons states
to reverse their course and become serious about ending the nuclear
weapons era, we may still be able to enter the 21st century with
a treaty in place to accomplish this goal. If the nuclear weapons
states hold firm to their present positions, however, India may
be only the first of many states to become new members in the
nuclear weapons club.
* David Krieger is president
of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.