India, Pakistan May Be Moving Toward CTBT

Recent moves by Indian and Pakistani leaders suggest that the two South Asian nations, which conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests in May, are edging toward signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes told the BBC Hindi service on September 7 that India would sign the treaty if it were recognized as a nuclear power. A senior official in the prime minister's office was cited by The Times of India on September 9 as saying, "We believe that adhering to the CTBT will not jeopardize our security concerns." In Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government on September 11 called a joint session of parliament to debate signing the CTBT, a move that may reflect a government decision to sign the test ban.

Driving the Indian and Pakistani governments is the weight of international sanctions imposed following the two countries' nuclear tests of May 11 and 13 and May 28 and 30, respectively. Indian officials have told reporters that in return for signing the CTBT, New Delhi expects the removal of these sanctions, as well as the lifting of Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime restrictions on India's purchases of nuclear and missile technology. Islamabad's signature of the test ban may come more easily, as Pakistan is in desperate need of international economic assistance that is being withheld as a consequence of the May tests.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott has led U.S. efforts to persuade the two South Asian states to adhere to an international arms control agenda that includes signing the test ban. The Clinton administration, which imposed sanctions required by U.S. law after the two sets of tests, has been supporting congressional efforts to provide presidential waiver authority for the sanctions in order to enhance the administration's negotiating flexibility.