CTBT-The bitter pill we promised to swallow


Columnist Wing Comd (Retd) MUHAMMAD IRSHAD comments on the pressures on Pakistan with respect to signing CTBT

Since 52 years of our existence, we have not been careful with the health of our economy, now it is ailing and ailing with many serious signs. For such serious troubled economies, there are not many doctors available, and the very few available are known for their strict and odd prescriptions. One of our such doctor has suggested us the pill of CTBT, and being placed with limited choices, we have promised to swallow it. But as anyone with even limited knowledge knows that all pills have side effects, some mild and some more disturbing than the actual disease, thus generally it is good to know about all such medicines, even though we have no choice but to swallow it.

Unfortunately, the government of Nawaz Sharif feels that in their divinely entrusted wisdom, few hand-picked around the PM can decide the fate of the nation on this extremely sensitive issue and thus in spite of a heavy mandate and the 14th Amendment (which seals the lips of party members), the PML government is not willing to discuss it openly in the Parliament and Senate and take the nation into confidence on this topic. As the days of final signatures draw nearer, we find a persistent view of hiding from any sort of discussion.

But the past history shows that decisions by some selected few have erred on many occasions. Remember, we signed an extremely important document of World Trade Organisation without even reading it, because it was too lengthy (about 22,000) pages. (Statement by Governor Sindh while inaugurating All Pakistan Marketing Conference). This CTBT is about 400 pages document but if we take into account the various international discussions and decisions held, then the total pages will be more than a million, will anybody in our bureaucracy have the time and stamina to read all, or are we going to sign another important document without even reading it ?

We are talking of a document upon which depends the security and future existence of our country. Why not come out of the policy with the full confidence of the nation embodied in it. The last time a ruler went to sign such an important document without the confidence of his nation was when late President Ayub Khan went to Tashkent to sign like a tiger and came out like a mouse under constant threats of Zulfikar Bhutto. Many in the politics believe that those signatures were the political death of Ayub Khan. I am sure he must have wished many times over of having taken his parliament into confidence before signatures, but time is essence at many important occasions had elapsed.

The emphasis of taking people into confidence also stems from the fact that Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is more of a symbol. The real issue is Pakistan's sovereignty, its Islamic identity and capacity to stand firm for its interests. The choice is between nuclear deterrence and economic self-reliance on the one hand and submission to US hegemony, compromises on nuclear capability and ever increasing debt dependence on the other. The CTBT is a road that leads to nuclear annihilation and suffocating debt enslavement.

Let it be clearly understood that the CTBT is not a self-contained and independent treaty. It is a key element of Comprehensive Nuclear Doctrine as clarified in its preamble. The purpose of the treaty is that five world atomic powers, and more particularly the US , should perpetuate their nuclear hegemony over the world. The result would be that Muslim World stay permanently deprived of this capability. The US nuclear umbrella provides protection and military alliance under NATO to Europe and Japan. UK and France have their own added deterrence. The erstwhile Great Russian Empire are economically on the mat and are thus no threat to Americans. China in the foreseeable future is not likely to adopt any aggressive posture.

What still raises awe for the world's only superpower is the Muslim World. Although in a bad shape with less unity amongst themselves, but the Muslim World is one sixth of the world area with one fifth of the world resources including the world's biggest oil reserves and some precious minerals. The US and the West are nervous about Muslim Unity and a possible Islamic threat. Thus Israel has been strengthened so that it does dominate the combined strength of the Arab States, economically and militarily. It has been ensured that no challenging power should emerge in the area. Any nation that aspires for an independent role, be it Syria, Iran, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or anyone else, it has to be 'fixed' so that it may pose no threat to Israeli hegemony. The fate of the Central Asian Muslim states is no different where it has been ensured that a Muslim block is not created, and the whole area remains linked with Russia and Europe.

In this context, Pakistan becoming a nuclear state is most awesome and a factor that can upset their whole future plans. And now US wants Pakistan to be weak so that Muslim World does not look up to Pakistan for any possible assistance to attain independent nuclear postures. Pakistan's history of helping many countries in the Middle East in strengthening of conventional weapons technology is also a grim reminder of the possible capabilities of Pakistan. Thus all efforts to ensure that Pakistan's nuclear capability is reduced to all possible limits and a great emphasis on Pakistan for commitments to ensure that no export of nuclear technology takes place.

How America perceives the Security of Pakistan, can be gauged by the Questions and Answers as given by the White House spokesman on the eve of our PM's visit to America. 'Q: The Pakistan Prime Minister, after meeting the President(Of USA), talked about informing the President about Pakistan's National Security dilemma, as he calls it , as a result of prolonged American sanctions and depleted conventional weapons. How is the US expected to help him resolve the dilemma?. Assistant Secretary, Inderfurth (replying): We can't help him unless he helps himself. The fact is that the President was able to exercise limited waiver authority under the Brownback Amendment on economic issues. Brownback does not cover, military to military relations. For us to have an opportunity to address the conventional military needs of Pakistan, Pakistan will have to take further steps to address our concerns on non-proliferation'. In simple words the American solution to all our security concerns is that 'you want conventional weapons, get rid of nuclear weapons'.

In the same conference, in reply to an other question, the US Assistant Secretary of State said, 'Well, I think that the question of training of terrorists that may operate in Kashmir is a serious question. It is one we are also concerned about. It is therefore, underscores the importance of getting Bin Laden out of Afghanistan and brought to justice. And a full court press is underway to do precisely that'. So this is how they feel about what we call as the 'real issue', or real hurdle in the establishment of peace in South-East Asia.

With this background, and the possible intentions , let us have a look at some clauses of the treaty. Under Article One sub-para one, 'Each State Party Undertakes not to carryout any nuclear test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control'. The logic behind these wordings is based on the principal that no one is going to risk using nuclear weapons unless they are pretty confident that they will work. This clause prohibits most kinds of testing and thus may make way for total non-usage.

US is the only superpower which now possess many times more capacity in conventional and nuclear weapons against both Russia and China. It has undertaken 1045 hot-tests , and four more tests last year after signing CTBT within the 'Sub-critical' limits, along with its very powerful capacities of cold and computer simulation tests. Yet some of its top scientists have advised government not to ratify CTBT. These scientists claim that no matter how supreme the present US position may be , it should not accept any ban on hot-tests if it wishes to keep its upper hand and world position in future. The American President signed CTBT on 24th Sept 1996, but the US Senate has yet to consider it for a serious hearing. Despite the obvious advantages, Dr Kathlean Baily, head of the Lawrence Livermore Natural Laboratory recommends 'US should not ratify the treaty as it will foreclose the ability of the United States to modernise its nuclear forces'. Appreciating the capability of computer simulation tests, Dr Baily said 'Virtual reality cannot replace reality'.

The Indian nuclear status somehow fits in the Western Scheme of things. That is why when China acquired atomic capability in 1964, western countries including Russia, Canada, France, Israel, and America helped openly as well as clandestinely to make India a nuclear power. No adverse reaction was shown to Indian detonation in 1974. Even the Indian explosions of 1998 materalised because of sustained help from some countries particularly Russia and Israel. No severe action was taken against her till Pakistan conducted test on May 28. The Sanctions were all really targeted against Pakistan's nuclear capability. Now India at present possess about 100 bombs in ready form and has the capacity to prepare around 200 bombs and has developed reliable delivery systems like missiles, air delivery and nuclear submarines. It has also prepared weapons both based on Uranium and Plutonium, and claims that it has conducted a thermonuclear test, which can enable it to make hydrogen bombs.

To contain such an adversary, it is necessary for Pakistan to possess a competitive capability. From this point of view, Pakistan does not have enough in store. The tests conducted by Pakistan, inspite of their effectiveness and success, were not considered enough. Also knowing that Indians are spending about 36 times more money on nuclear adventures and thus nuclear surprises must be expected. Thus to maintain sufficient deterrent power, meet future technological requirements and counter Indian developments, the option to conduct more nuclear tests must be kept open.

'Hot tests' are also necessary for weaponisation, miniaturisation, and major modifications in designs, particularly to enhance the weapons' capabilities, further improvements in target refinement and to seek reduction in radiation and hazards for human life and health. Kahuta may not be needing hot-testing soon, but for Khushab for which billions of dollars have been invested , such tests are essential in the coming stages. Similarly tests have great importance in preparation of 'tactical low yield devices'. Pakistan is yet to develop tritium which India claims to have developed.

For a number of purposes, computer simulation is an option. But while India has been provided a super computer, Pakistan has been denied this technology. Another relevant variable is the amount of data available on the basis of one's own tests or software based on tests by others. We do not have enough of such data as well. Russia and America have such data from the results of over thousand tests each, and can thus update capabilities with actual testing. But unless Pakistan obtains necessary technology, how can it develop competitive capacity without practical testing.

The drastic change in Indian attitude after our nuclear tests must also be taken in account as these tests being a symbol of our strength. The aggressive threats have changed into peace music, thus the chances of war in South Asia have been minimised. But to maintain this capacity in future and upgrade it to the required level, it is necessary to keep our hands untied and protect the capacity to counter Indian advancements.

Article One, sub-para 2 of the treaty states: Each State Party undertakes, furthermore, to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in anyway participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. The logic behind these words is to ensure that no nuclear expansion takes place because of nuclear co-operation. That means those who have nuclear weapons should not encourage other states to have this technology. Before any comments, let us see some facts:- a) All Israeli nuclear tests were conducted in the laboratories of America. b) All British tests from 1962 have been conducted jointly with the United States at the Nevada Test Site.(Guide to the World Today, by Gerald Segal) c)Recently India has signed a defence accord with Russia under which the later has pledged to provide Indians with S-300 Theatre Missile Defence System , popularly known as the 'Star War' system'. d) Appended below is a list of countries which have co-operated with India to reach the present nuclear stage. All this data has been prepared by Steven Dolley of Nuclear Control Institute dated June 5, 1998.


Supplier Items Notes
Canada Cirus research reactor Pu used in '74 test
Cirus reactor fuel Rajasthan-1
CANDU reactor Kota
heavy water plant
China heavy water Tarapur 1 & 2
LEU fuel (post-1995)
France LEU fuel (1982-1994) Tarapur 1 & 2
heavy water plant Baroda, Tuticorin
fast breeder technology Kalpakkam
Norway heavy water illegal transfer
Romania heavy water (Norwegian origin) illegal re-transfer
Russia power reactors Koodankulam 1 & 2
Soviet Union heavy water Rajasthan reactors
Switzerland heavy water plant Baroda, Tuticorin
United Kingdom research reactor fuel Apsara
United States heavy water Cirus research reactor
power reactors Tarapur 1 & 2
LEU fuel for Tarapur (until 1982) for Tarapur (until 1982)
reprocessing technology Trombay/BARC
West Germany heavy water illegal transfer
heavy water plant Nangal, Talcher
beryllium (some US-origin; illegal re-transfer)

Thus it is obvious that the creator of atom bomb were also pioneers of spreading the atomic technology. To almost all allies in the West, the technology exists in some shape. The only major sector without this technology is MUSLIMS. That is what the West and USA wants to ensure and that is why in their eyes, Pakistan becoming nuclear power is more serious than Indian nuclear advancements. Probably this is the only reason they are not willing to accept both of them as nuclear states, because in that case, Pakistan will be entitled to many advantages that they have reserved for themselves. Signatures on this clause as a clear violation of the Quranic instructions ' Lo! Allah Loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure (LXI:4)'. Because this treaty clearly forbids any kind of co-operation amongst Muslim states in the nuclear fields, irrespective if the Muslim group is in serious trouble (like Jerusalem) or severe pain (like Kashmir).

The clause of inspections states: 'The Treaty has a Protocol under which an International Monitoring System (IMS) and an International Data Centre (IDC) are being established as part of the global verification regime foreseen under article IV (Verification). IMS will consist of a global network of 321 monitoring stations, as well as 16 laboratories, capable of detecting nuclear explosions worldwide. This network of 170 seismic, 80 radionuclide, 60 infrasound and 11 hydroacoustic stations, as well as 16 radionuclide laboratories - comprising a total of 337 facilities - will supply data for processing and analysis to IDC. Both the raw and processed data will be available to all the States parties. If a suspicious occurrence cannot be resolved through consultation and clarification, each State party has the right to request an on-site inspection.'

For this purpose, two monitoring stations for CTBT verifications, one of Seismic Primary nature at Chakwal and the other an Infra sound station are already working in Pakistan. This is in addition to many eyes on us through the overhead satellites(Which even detected the alleged delivery of ring magnets to Pakistan and were able to report some packed cartons on Pakistan's Sargodha Air base which were declared to be the parts of M-11 missiles.) (In 1974, Indian explosion was considered peaceful, but we got sanctions without explosions). They will certainly have a very different attitude for us. Also please note that the amount of test-material necessary for calling an inspection by international inspectors is not defined. Meaning, they can create any reason to visit any of our facility. All they have to do is to arrange 26 members agreeing with their definition. With so much hatred against Muslims, and America having recently shown us its signs of bulldozing its way(by missile attack in Afghanistan), this should always be an easy task.

The contents of the clause were very clear but somehow our policy makers and our think-tank failed to read between the lines. Thus the PM announced very categorically 'No inspector is going to enter our nuclear facilities'. Many learned personalities of Pakistan called it as 'Inspection of test site' , meaning the test site at Balochistan etc and not our nuclear laboratories. Just before the PM's visit to America, US Under Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, speaking on 'Peace and Security in South Asia' in the world net work programme (Nov 13, '98) alluded to the inspections not merely of 'testing Sites' but of 'nuclear Sites'. It was certainly not any lapse, it has just brought the cat out of the bag. In the same interview, he clarified that the real target was nuclear roll back .

Also please note the clause 'Both the raw and processed data will be available to all the States parties.' That means our all technical data will be handed over to India, Israel and America. If we want to know their details, be sure there will be some hidden clause prohibiting us in one way or the other.

There are many other clauses requiring some serious consideration. But all are very clearly indicative that CTBT is a slippery road leading to our nuclear annihilation. The decision to be taken by Pakistan is whether Pakistan is ready to be entangled in this system , and resultantly get its hands tied for ever ? Alternatively , is it willing to pay the price to stay free and insist on maintaining its nuclear deterrence in a manner that is not only keeping with its independence and honour but which also enables it to effectively protect its national and ideological security ? If freedom , security and honour mean something to our government, then now is the time to think seriously on this issue and place confidence in its own people. Now is the time to place all the facts before the people and let the whole nation through parliament decide the fate of this treaty. The existing policy of tackling this very important issue through the secretive missions of Mr. Shahbaz Sharif may be considered effective, but it is certainly not appropriate, particularly if our foreign office is completely ignorant of the details. If the actions of the government are fair and in the best interest of the nation, then they have nothing to fear. Why not take our Parliament into confidence? Any secret deal or royal signatures may result like the royal signatures of Emperor Aurangzeb, who allowed the British doctor to have trade with India and the result was next two centuries of enslavement.