Opinion divided on naming CTBT non-signatories

By R Senthilnathan


October 5, 1999, 17:30 Hrs (IST)

Vienna: Nations signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) are deeply divided on the eve of a Review Conference here on whether countries like India, which have not signed it, should be named in a political declaration and isolated internationally.

This was among the key issues delegates from a large number of countries have been debating ahead of the three-day diplomatic meeting beginning tomorrow to decide the status of the CTBT and how to ensure that it comes into force soon.

Officials at the CTBT Organisation (CTBTO), the Vienna-based secretariat which will supervise the treaty, are tight-lipped about the draft political declaration, but diplomatic sources claim the three month-long negotiations revealed a deep rift between those who want the non-signatories to be named in the declaration and those who do not.

Diplomats point out that should countries be officially named in the declaration, it would amount to diplomatic isolation for nations like India, Pakistan and North Korea which are yet to sign the treaty.

The CTBT requires a diplomatic conference -- the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT -- to be held to discuss its future if it does not enter into force within three years of its adoption.

That date fell on September 24 this year.

So far 154 countries have signed the treaty and 46 of them have ratified it. Of the 46, only 22 are from the group of 44 countries with nuclear facilities whose ratification is mandatory for the treaty to enter into force. While India, Pakistan and North Korea are among the three non-signatories belonging to the club of 44, among the non-ratifiers are China, Russia and the US, three nuclear weapons states.

Carlos Hernandez, spokesman for the CTBTO, says all countries, irrespective of whether they have signed the treaty or not, have been invited to attend the conference.

India has decided not to participate in the conference. Foreign Secretary K Raghunath reportedly told the state-run Doordarshan television that New Delhi had not been invited to attend the conference.

The Indian government has said that the decision on signing the CTBT will be taken by the new government which will assume office later this month following the national elections. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh has stressed the need for creating a positive environment for New Delhi to sign the CTBT, in other words by removing the sanctions on the country.

While all countries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can attend the meet, only those 46 countries that have ratified the treaty can vote.

Hernandez conceded there are a number of brackets in the draft political declaration, the brackets signifying disagreements. Diplomatic sources say the key bracket is the issue of naming non-signatories.

"It is a very sensitive issue and there has been a lot of talk about it...whether the political declaration should contain names of countries that have not signed and ratified as they block the treaty entering into force," said one Asian diplomat based here.

According to the diplomat, the issue is compounded by the fact that some would like only those countries that have not signed the treaty -- India, Pakistan and North Korea -- to be named while others want those that have not ratified also to be named.

"The US wants countries like India and North Korea to be named, but it does not want countries that have not ratifed to be named because then it will also appear in this list," said one source. Though the Clinton administration is eager to ratify the treaty, the US Senate is firmly opposed to it, particularly hardline Senator Jesse Helms.

While the non-signatory and non-ratifying states have been the focus of attention for blocking the treaty, the CTBT faces another, hitherto unacknowledged, problem -- an incomplete global monitoring system.

The system is based on 321 mostly seismic but also radio-nuclide and sonar stations in about 90 countries. The stations will be linked to the International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna which will receive and analyse the data. Should there be any suspicious events, the IDC will transmit received data with its own assessment to member states for further action which could range from asking for clarification from the country concerned to sending in an on-site inspection team.

CTBTO officials were earlier upbeat about having the system ready by the October meeting. But less than half the stations are complete. "So, even if you have the treaty in force, you cannot enforce it because you do not have the monitoring system in force," a CTBTO official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The official attributed the delay to lack of financial resources and slow progress in signing agreements with nations outlining the rights and obligations of the 321 stations. India had earlier offered to host four stations, but later withdrew while Pakistan has offered to host a seismological and an infra-sound station. Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are also to host auxiliary seismological stations.

India Abroad News Service


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