The CTBT - Bonanza

Columnist Col (Retd) EAS BOKHARI gives his viewpoint about pros and cons of CFTBT

As per a news item the Government has put an end to the noisy and endless debate on CTBT - and the last such skirmish on the TV was between Mr Irshad Ahmad Haqqani who wields a fascicle pen in the Jang - and the more articulate Mr Arif Nizami of the ' Nation' Lahore.

It is good that it has been done as it had become a national fad - and of course there are only a few people who really know what CTBT is and what are the problems of its implementation and even if it is signed, it at the very best remains a fragile pact. In fact, as would be clear from the following paragraphs that most such pacts are there to be flouted flagrantly - and are Western ploys of the developed countries to brake arms proliferation. And human nature being what it is - it cannot be suppressed and therefore such ploys like the CTBT - MTCR - ABM Treaty 1972 et al become infructuous at some time or need a total rehash and deletion.

In any case such technical brakes are also an incursion in the internal affairs of other countries - and are clearly discriminatory as far as the Third World is concerned.

Unfortunately instead of devoting the newspaper - and air space to some constructive activity - the press had unleashed a continuous skirmish on the pros and cons of the signing of CTBT without really discussing the core issues i.e. the problems of its implementation which is the crux of the whole issue.

And can there be a real peace in the materialist world like ours where all politicians have their nationalists' aim uppermost in their minds? My perception is 'No'. Most of the pacts I think have been signed under some sort of coercion - and the net result is that these are now a relic in the junkyard of history. Certain parameters of real peace and how it can be brought about in this world of eternal turmoil are discussed in the paragraphs that follow:

'Peace treaties are like a flower or a beautiful girl - these last as long as these last' - General DeGaulle.

Late President Nixon has expressed almost the same feeling on treaties in his famous book, Real Peace (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1983). According to him many a meaningful treaty is just like items in the junkyard of history - almost abandoned and unheeded.

There is no shortage of the coverage of peace treaties and the work sponsored by ACDA (Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Washington DC). The newspapers are replete with coverage of arms control measures such as CTBT, NPT, CD, CWC, et al. One cannot say with any degree of certainty that these programmes are successful, as neither the race for weapons and their craze has slowed down in its totality, nor any discernible possibilities for the establishment of a 'real peace' have emerged. The trend after the end of the Cold War is that instead of world wars, regional wars have become more fashionable and are the order of the day. This is also perhaps the effect of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the dawn of the New World Order (NWO). To the question: is real peace really possible? the simple answer is no. Again referring to Nixon, one of the most successful peace negotiators (he got the ABM Treaty 1972 going and it was not easy to negotiate anything with the Soviet Union then), real peace can either be found in the grave or in the typewriter of a journalist. According to him we have to live in spite of the spate of weapons, and with proliferation, as best we can. Weapons and war cannot be eliminated.

Here is an interesting dialogue between two distinguished personalities on this issue of human nature and war (this dialogue took place in 1947):

Phillipe Halsman (the famous photographer): Do you believe that peace will never come in this world?

Dr Albert Einstein: Wars will continue as long as man lives in the planet earth.

It should not however be deduced from this rather grim introduction to the subject of arms control that no efforts at all should be made for establishment of peace and arms control. A critical analysis of the work of ACDA, especially recent successes in control of chemical weapons (especially CWC of Paris 1993), the SALT treaties, NPT and now the CTBT, one is constrained to conclude that neither the nature of man nor the parameters of war have changed. Man still remains highly politically and nationally selfish. The first interest of every politician is the national interest, whatever the cost. Some flexibility is however discernible in human attitudes towards war.

Here is another perception of peace again by President Nixon. During a meeting with President Brezhnev in the Crimea in 1974, he jotted down this note on a piece of paper '... Peace is like a delicate plant. It has to be constantly tended and nurtured, if it is to survive... if we neglect it, it will wither and die.' He goes on to elaborate his thoughts on peace '... Peace has barely survived in the rocky soil of the twentieth century. The violence of two world wars and scores of smaller wars has nearly uprooted it time and again. It has managed to survive, but is far from safe. It is not a grim burden but an inspiring challenge to build and sustain real peace. Given the alternative of suicidal war, we must not fail....'

War, there is no doubt, is a hurdle in the path of national development. Late President Eisenhower, himself a great user of arms and a great field commander, appears to be disgusted with the excessive use of arms. His deep anxiety over an endless arms race can be seen from the following unusually eloquent piece of writing from him '...Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.' And then again the warrior Eisenhower writes about the futility of the arms race and weapons proliferation. He says '... this country could choke to death piling up military expenditure just as surely as it can defeat itself by not spending enough for protection....'

A much better climate has been created with the end of the cold war and disintegration of the Soviet Union Arms control in any case is an important strategic issue and presently many developed countries have unilaterally cut their defence budgets and made really deep cuts in their strategic weapons. This augurs well for world peace, although the impact of the end of Cold War in Third World is exactly the opposite, and those who can ill-afford arms are indulging in an arms race frenzy.

Arms control, and the various treaties and brakes envisaged in the arms control mechanism, are not really an end in themselves but may be considered as a means of '.... locking in security-enhancing restraints when political developments permit... Realistically conducted, arms control negotiations can contribute to real peace... Naively pursued, they can increase the risk of war....'

A properly negotiated arms control might well try to achieve the following goals:

  • Creation of a strategic stability.
  • Reduction in the cost of defence and making it cost-effective.
  • Arms control is a political imperative.
  • Arms control is the first important step in controlling nuclear proliferation.
  • Any arms control agreement must be based on equality and must ensure strategic stability. Neither party can feel secure unless both feel secure.
  • Arms control must restrict the testing of new missile technology which can destabilise strategic balance.
  • It must reduce/eliminate, and not just limit nuclear arsenals.
  • It must discourage credible 'first strike' capability.
  • Arms control must ensure (after due verification) a true balance of power. Equality in numbers is important, but equality alone is not the sole criterion. The important thing is that the competing sides must not have unequal military capability.