By Alex Wagner
President Bill Clinton and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee issued a joint statement September 15 reaffirming India's voluntary suspension of nuclear testing pending entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its commitment not to block the treaty's entry into force. In an apparent response, Pakistan said it would also maintain its testing moratorium until the CTBT enters into force.
Vajpayee and Clinton discussed the test ban, among other issues, over the course of a four-day summit in Washington. The summit was the second between the two leaders in six months, and the joint statement appears to marginally expand India's pledge during Clinton's March visit to New Delhi at which India "reaffirmed" its "voluntary commitment to forgo further nuclear tests." (See ACT, April 2000.) The most recent statement again "reaffirmed that, subject to its supreme national interests, [India] will continue its voluntary moratorium until the [CTBT] comes into effect" and will not "block entry into force of the Treaty."
At a September 15 press conference, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth told reporters that the statement was "a new element" in the U.S.-Indian relationship because it "spelled out" the Indian government's intention to continue a moratorium on nuclear tests until the CTBT enters into force. However, both Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh, the Indian foreign minister, have repeatedly stressed India's willingness to convert its testing moratorium into a "de jure obligation."
By agreeing not to block the CTBT's entry into force, India appears to be consenting to sign and ratify the test ban as long as the other 43 states needed to ratify under Article XIV have done so first. Given that such an assurance implicitly involves both signature and ratification of the test ban by a number of countries, including Pakistan and North Korea, India's non-signature will not impede the CTBT's entry into force for some time.
A U.S. official said that despite the overall success of the Vajpayee visit and the additional language on the CTBT in the joint statement, New Delhi is no closer to signing the treaty than it was when Clinton visited India in March. In fact, according to the official, New Delhi has done little to develop a "national consensus" on the treaty—an oft-cited precondition to India's signature.
Mirroring India's pledge, at a September 25 news conference Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said, "Pending CTBT entry into force, Pakistan will maintain its moratorium and refrain from further tests unless another extraordinary event occurs that jeopardizes [its] security interests." According to the Pakistani embassy in Washington, the statement represents an "enhancement" of Pakistan's CTBT policy because it affixes a time frame to the initially "open-ended" moratorium imposed after Pakistan's nuclear tests in May 1998.