Testing News

The Only Thing Standing Between You and the Nevada Testsite

Editors Note

This article was first published in Testing News more than twenty years ago. In that two decades nothing has happened. Without a test ban treaty we downwinders will allways be under the threat of more nuclear testing. This article shows what needs to be done, and after all these years it is still relavent.

INDIA --Villain, Hero, or Scapegoat?

On August 20, 1996, the 49th anniversary of its modern independence as a nation, India surprised and dismayed much of the world by openly demonstrating it. Indian Ambassador Arundhati Ghose brought to an end a 2 1/2 year effort by the United Nations' Committee on Disarmament (CD) when she vetoed the Committee's nuclear Test-ban Treaty. Requiring the consensus of all 61 members, India's actions prevented the adoption of the Treaty and its forwarding to the full United Nations for signing. Alone in its action, India stood in clear and open defiance of the world's Big-5 nuclear weapons states and the hopes of many other nations.

Reactions to the Indian veto were swift and fell into three general directions. India was either the chief villain, the hero, standing up for the world's non-nuclear and less powerful states, or simply the scapegoat being played by the nuclear powers to kill a treaty they really didn't want but couldn't be seen opposing.

The Washington Post labeled India "the spoiler". The United States Ambassador to the CD Stephen J. Ledogar, called India's action "insincere" and the reasons given for it as "nonsense". Others were less pleasant and politically refined as pundits and self-described India experts slammed India for displaying "grandiose self deception" and "paranoid notions of national security". Coupled with these denunciations were calls and pledges to by pass India and to force the treaty through the United Nations at whatever the cost.

At home in India and among some non-nuclear Third World nations, Ambassador Ghose's veto was heralded as a heroic action born of courage and commitment. India had stood up to the world in demanding that a time frame for total nuclear disarmament be part of the treaty. By insisting all weapons development and testing end, not just the actual explosions, but high-tech laboratory and computer testing as well -- testing not possible for any but the most wealthy and powerful of the weapons states-- India had acted to protect the less developed and powerless nations of the world. India had done what other non-aligned, non-nuclear, and poor nations believed right, but had not the courage, or power to do on their own.

Among neutral observers of the CD talks, fingers were being pointed in another direction. Questions were raised as to whether the positions of some of the nuclear weapons states over the concerns of India, and their refusal to even remotely consider them, had actually been designed to lead India to veto the treaty. By allowing China to change the treaty text at the last minute, but to refuse to consider India's request for a similar change the question was raised that India was perhaps being used as a scapegoat for China, Russia, and others to kill the treaty. If India's veto killed the treaty then the nuclear weapons states would be off the hook and could keep testing. Better yet they could stand firmly without blame, since it was India, not them who killed it.


One of the most interesting aspect of the rush to blame India completely for the failure of the CD to finalize a Test-ban in time for the September opening of the U.N. General Assembly, was that anybody was surprised. India had been very up front and public about its concerns over the treaty text. It had made it clear since the current round of talks opened in May that unless its concerns were addressed it would block the treaty. Apparently nobody bothered to listen.

This sudden surprise and outrage was a puzzlement to the Indians since they had been as open as possible with their concerns and opposition. Indian Ambassador Ghose pointed this out in an interview with the "DECCAN HERALD" in Bangalore, India after making her veto;

"Why are they so upset? We have been telling them from day one - and for two months we tried... we negotiated. I gave a formula for EIF (entry into force)... and I said in that statement (in the ad hoc committee) that I will reluctantly block it. The media have said India threatens to block. But I gave a formula, if you accept this, I will not block. They tried (persuasion) informally. So I said, ''Sorry.`` (They said) ''The man on the street expects it`` (signing the treaty). I said, ''A man on your street. Please be very clear that the man on the street is not a white European walking down a Geneva boulevard. A man on the street to me is somebody who is brown and who comes from my country. So don`t let`s have these generalisations.....All they had to do is read our statements. They are public documents. My statement of June 20 in plenary is a public document. We gave it to the press. They could have picked it up.``

What little coverage the Western Press had given to India's concerns had been scanty and superfical. Most dealt with trying to explain away India's position as simply justification to develop nuclear weapons of its own. One clear tone that also prevailed the coverage was an attitude that how dare India? The Big 5 had agreed so what was India's problem? Yet it was precisely this kind of attitude that was perceived by the Indians as aggrogance of the nuclear "haves" toward the nuclear "have-nots" -- we've decided, so you get on board -- that provided the basis underlining India concerns. The more the media and the western diplomatic community explained away the problem in this manner the stronger the justification for India's position became at home, and the stronger the perception at home, that indeed India's national security was at stake.


India does believe the Test-ban threatens its national security. The importance of this is as Stephen P. Cohen, director of the arms control program at the University of Illinois and a student of Indian nuclear policies since the 1960s has pointed out, "No nation will sacrifice its national security for any treaty."

Because of this, without reaching some resolution, India is not going to back down and sign the Test-ban treaty no matter what the Big 5 nuclear weapons states and their supporters do at the U.N. in September! Without India signing the treaty "first" Pakistan's Prime Minister has made just as clear they won't sign either! Without both nations there is little chance China's support will continue, and the treaty will loose the credibility needed to win ratification by the required number of nations to ever go into force. Lastly, as the treaty now stands, it cannot go into force without India and Pakistan having signed on! Without India the CTBT is dead! The Big 5 nuclear weapons states made sure of that in the treaty text itself!


It is virtually impossible to forge a resolution of any dispute, be it between family members, friends, groups of people, or nations by telling them we've decided and so be it. Forced settlements do not work and for any real resolution to be achieved, the first point required is understanding what the dispute is about. In the case of India's veto of the Test-ban this has not happened, and the results on down the road could be far worse than those that have already taken place. Without trying to understand the nature of India's position and simply deciding to ignore it and ram the Test-ban through the U.N. may well lead to its ultimate demise, and with it the current international moratorium on testing itself.

India's problems with the currently proposed text for a Test-ban center on three key areas: (1) A demand that a firm time-frame for total nuclear disarmament be formally written into the treaty text. Without such a provision India views the proposed treaty as locking in the special status and power of the Big-5; (2) Deep concerns over the Entry-into-Force EIF provisions of the text. Here again India views this provision as it now exists as prejudiced toward the nuclear "have-nots" and only in the interests of maintaining the superiority of the Big-5; (3) Fears that by banning only test explosions with actual nuclear yields and not laboratory type sub-critical test and computer simulations that the richest -- "haves" -- of the nuclear weapons states would be able to continue weapons developments while the poorer --"have-nots -- such as India would not.

While it is easy to maintain India's real reason for its opposition is a desire to keep open the nuclear option, or to engage in actual weapons development, it is equally as easy and more important to examine each of these issue from the Indian perspective.

Adding a time-specific commitment for full nuclear disarmament to the treaty text.

The one area of dispute that has received the most media attention has been India's demand that the treaty text be modified to include a formal commitment and time frame for total nuclear disarmament. It is also the one area where the Big 5 have been most adamant in refusing to even consider reopening negotiations on the text.

Basically India feels that for a Test-ban to have any viable effect as a first step toward ending the nuclear weapons threat, it must be an absolute and binding one. To accomplish that India insists that a Test-ban must be followed by the total elimination of all existing nuclear weapons by all nuclear weapons states, and that a firm and binding time limit for such action must be written into the text. Without such a commitment by the nuclear weapons states to get rid of their existing weapons India views a Test-ban as merely a device to lock in the Big 5's nuclear monopoly, and with it legalize the continued threat their possession of such weapons holds over the rest of the world's nations. Such a situation would allow the nuclear powers to use the threat of such weapons to brow beat and blackmail the nuclear "have-nots" of the world when ever they so pleased. To India it is just another example of racism and neo-colonialism.

As the world's second most populous nation it present a serious security concern for India. On India's borders rests China with several hundred existing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them -- a capability that would be locked in under the proposed Test-ban. India has already suffered a humiliating defeat in a border war with China in 1962, and does not have the means to match China in a nuclear showdown. Likewise China is also the ally and chief nuclear helpmate for India's other potential enemy Pakistan. As long as China is able to retain its existing nuclear arsenal and India is forbidden to develop a deterrent of its own, or even attempt to, India will remain vulnerable to nuclear blackmail.

Any protection against such a threat would require India to reach a defense agreement with other members of the Big 5, and at what cost to India's security and policy concerns? What would India have to agree to do in return? What positions would it have to take? What territory would it have to provide for foreign military bases in order to get the firm protection of other weapons states? Similar concerns and security issues face many other nuclear "have nots" among the third world, especially those in locations where members of the Big 5 could decide to wage ideological or sphere of influence power games -- the Middle East, the newly independent nations of the former Soviet Union, developing nations of Africa and so on. As long as the Big 5 continue to hold their nuclear trump cards, the rest of the world's people -- by far the biggest majority -- remain at risk to blackmail and coercion.

India is not alone in this concern. Nations ranging from Mexico to Egypt have all raised similar concerns at the CD talks only to be refused an audience by the Big 5. Should the opportunity present itself for reopening debate on the text of a Test-ban it is more than likely India will not find its self alone on this point.

It is interesting to examine the rhetoric of both sides on this issue. A recent Op-Ed article from The Deccan Herald, August 27, 1996, provides the flavor of how most Indians view their government's concern on this issue;

"The double-facedness of the Americans and some of their friends is truly amazing. They issue statements for the record that the NPT obliges non-nuclear weapon states to forego nuclear weapons and ''for the nuclear weapon states it is an undertaking to end the arms race and pursue, nuclear disarmament``. And yet, when nuclear weapons and their possible use was challenged before the International Court of Justice and the verdict was that the NPT provision for nuclear disarmament was a binding commitment, the USA, Britain, France and Russia contemptuously dismissed the judgment as not binding on them.

"The nuclear weapon powers are not prepared to include in the treaty any timebound commitment to nuclear disarmament because ''that is clearly not going to happen``. Nor are they able to rebut the point that the CTBT text leaves open the possibilities of non-explosive testing and upgradation of nuclear weapons, leading to a new and refined weapons technology race. "The nuclear weapon powers are not prepared to include in the treaty any timebound commitment to nuclear disarmament because ''that is clearly not going to happen``. Nor are they able to rebut the point that the CTBT text leaves open the possibilities of non-explosive testing and upgradation of nuclear weapons, leading to a new and refined weapons technology race.

"Washington`s response to India`s objections is couched in arrogance. Its spokesman said that no change was possible in the text because they were ''comfortable`` with it and ''those standing in the way of the treaty ought to get out of the way``.

"For us Indians the issue is not whether we should or should not make nuclear weapons nor whether we need them or not, nor even whether we can afford them or not. The issue is something else, much simpler and with a bearing on national self-respect: whether we should be browbeaten into giving up our right by those who are determined to keep theirs..."

The response of the nuclear weapons states to India's demand for a commitment to nuclear disarmament can best be summed up in the words of United States State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns during the August 16, 1996 "daily briefing; "

BURNS: I can just tell you that the United States' objectives are very clear. This treaty ought to be signed, and those standing in the way of the treaty ought to get out of the way of the treaty...we like the Ramaker draft text. We like it. We're not in a position to entertain negotiations to change that text....I think that there is an essential agreement among the nuclear powers -- the Perm Five -- that this treaty ought to go forward. If other countries have a problem with it, they ought to reflect upon their responsibilities here to the international community. Do one or two countries want to hold this up? It's not, we believe, in their interest.....The United States believes that it is not practical to promise that in X number of years there will be no more nuclear weapons on the face of the earth. That is an illusion, and we prefer, because we are interested in the practical security of the American people not to deal in illusions...But we prefer not to be hopeless dreamers. We prefer to be practical....I've already said it is not practical to commit oneself to destroy all nuclear weapons when that is clearly not going to happen... There is certainly support in this Administration, certainly support in the Republican party, certainly support in the United States Congress and among the American people, I would wager, for the United States to continue to have a nuclear deterrent, yes."

The Existing Treaty Provisions on Entry Into Force

The issue of the Entry Into Force (EIF) provisions of the draft Test-ban is another point of dispute India has toward the treaty. In fact this was the key issue that resulted in India's veto. Under the EIF provisions of the Ramaker text, the Test-ban would not go into force until 180 days after the "deposit of the instruments of ratification (the official documents proving that the respective government has ratified and joined the treaty) by the States listed in Annex 2 of the treaty. Annex 2 list a total of 44 nations that must formally ratify the treaty before it can go into force. India is one of those listed in Annex 2.

What that means and why India objects is that it forces India to sign, and ratify the treaty it opposes, or the treaty can not go into force, even if all other nations ratify it. India maintains this provision takes away its sovereign rights as a nation to decide what it wants to be a party to and what it doesn't. India also fears the provision would leave it open to scantions from the United Nations if it does not ratify the treaty and thus prevents it from going into force.

Plain and simply India does not like to be forced, or obligated to sign when it does not support it. India has offered repeatedly to agree to not oppose the treaty if the EIF was changed to remove obligation for India to sign. Had India had the right to choose not to sign without evoking a provision that would kill the treaty, India would not have vetoed it.

The EIF provisions were put in the treaty text at the insistence of the Big 5, or the Perm 5 (as the U.S. State Department refers to them) nuclear weapons states for exactly the purpose India objects to -- forcing the non-nuclear threshold states into having to sign the treaty, or face international wrath. Britain, Russia, China, and the U.S. made sure of it, and have refused any re-opening of treaty talks to consider changing it.

It is this point that many, including the United States and Pakistan used to point the finger at India charging its opposition is a farce to hide keeping the nuclear option available. Most importantly it is the one point that unless it is resolved will ultimately kill the treaty and prevent it from ever going into force. Under the EIF provisions of the Ramaker text which the Perm 5 refuse to change, if India refuses to ratify, there will be no treaty to go into force, now or later. This is the fact, and it will remain the fact as long as the Ramaker text remains sacred and forever unchangeable to the Perm 5. BECAUSE OF THIS IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT HAPPENS AT THE U.N. IN SEPTEMBER. UNLESS THE TREATY TEXT IS CHANGED, NO INDIA, NO TREATY!

India maintains its refusal to be trapped by the EIF provisions is simply that it will not be forced to sign and comply with something it does not support, and which it has serious problems with. The problems of a demand for total disarmament, and the fact the treaty permits continued sub-critical tests and computer simulated weapons development are its concerns, the EIF provisions would force it to abandon those concerns, which it will not do. Faced with the refusal to discuss, or change the EIF, India vetoed it.

If there is any single provision of the Ramaker text that can be pointed to as potentially playing to the self-interests of the nuclear weapons states, and offering them the opportunity to play India as the scapegoat to kill the treaty some, it is the EIF!

The issue of sub-critical laboratory and computer testing

The last of India's major concerns with the Ramaker Test Ban is that it would allow the conducting of sub-critical nuclear tests -- tests where nuclear materials and high explosives are used to simulate full scale nuclear explosions, but which by themselves have no nuclear yield. (For more information see the article on Sub-critical testing in this Special Report. Also in September Downwinders will begin a series of in depth reports on sub-critical testing and other similar programs under way in the United States) Coupled with extensive and state of the art computer data recorders and instrumentation such testing can in many instances take the place of actual nuclear testing in weapons studies, and even weapons design.

The deciding factor in how valuable such testing could be for continuing nuclear weapons research and development is how much money and how much technical expertise the nation doing the testing has available. A country like the United States has the cutting edge super computers, all ready existing nuclear weapons labs with scientists already versed in it, the funds readily available, and years of preparing for how to maintain a weapons program under a Test-ban, such testing makes somewhat of a joke out of a CTBT. Other countries like India, and even some of the Perm 5 themselves just plain don't have either the technology or the bucks, making this another case of locking in an advantage of the "haves" over the "have nots".

Several events regarding the issue of sub-critical and computer simulation testing also occurred during the critical moments of the debate at the CD talks that made the situation all that more noticeable to the Indians and other third world nations expressing concern. First the United States was preparing to conduct the first of two planned sub-critical tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Conducting them at the NTS in a facility 800 feet underground designed for conducting nuclear tests of extremely small yield didn't help ease any concerns either, and raised serious potential verification questions as well. After Pakistan made noise about the tests and pointed to them as a serious matter that perhaps should be looked at with regards to the treaty, the United States announced they were postponing the tests for the moment at least.


No sooner had that issue subsided than another potentially more dangerous matter came to light when the Washington Post reported in an exclusive June 17 article by Jeffrey Smith, that the United States and France had just signed a secret agreement allowing their scientists to work closely together to maintain their nuclear arsenals after a Test-ban treaty. Under the agreement the U.S. would share with France among other things a vast amount of computer data built up from simulated explosions of U.S. modern warheads. This information had never been provided to anyone other than the British whom the Americans have jointly conducted nuclear tests with at the Nevada Test Site since 1962. The agreement was to have scientists work jointly on eight different "scientific challenges posed by the looming global test ban".

The deal didn't stop there either, the U.S. also agreed to allow French scientists access to several new high-tech facilities being built by the DOE "to keep U.S. nuclear weapons research alive after a Test-ban." Included were the $1 billion National Ignition Facility (NIF) which will simulate the flow of radiation in a nuclear fireball, and a $400 million test facility at Los Alamos to snap high speed photos of the inner workings of mock weapons.

The article also reported that the U.S. was discussing providing non-classified data to the Russians and that Defense Secretary Perry had told the Chinese in October, 1994 that the U.S. was interested in sharing information about U.S. computer simulation techniques with Chinese bomb designers.

None of these facts could have escaped the Indians and tend to substantiate many of their concerns. But there would be more to boost and strengthen India's concern. On July 26, 1996 the it was announced that the United States Department of Energy had just awarded a contract to IBM to build an "ultrasupercomputer 300 times faster than any machine now in existence." The purpose of the machine according to Energy Secretary O'Leary was to be used to"simulate nuclear explosions so the government can test atomic weapons without having to actually blow them up" (See article in this Special Report on computer simulations

More and more on this point the deeper one looks and researches the more justification and validity there is to India's concern about the need for the Test-ban to ban all testing, including the sub-critical testing it now allows the nuclear weapons "haves" that can afford it.

Time to Stop Blaming India and Time to Try and Save the Test Ban!

Is there substance to India's stated concerns for vetoing the Test-ban Treaty drafted by CD Chairman Ramaker? Yes there is on several fronts. Is there enough substance to justify the veto? That is for the reader to decide, but one thing is clear and that is without an understanding of India's concerns, and without abandonment of the arrogant attitude that says we want this Test-ban and India should just shut up and get in line, there isn't going to be a Test-ban, no matter how bad the Perm 5 as the U.S. calls them wants it, and no matter how sacred they view the Ramaker text. The nuclear weapons states' insistence on the text's EIF will see to that!

For more information: J Truman downwinders@facesdownwind.org Revised: August 29, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Downwinders,Inc.