Pakistan Security and CTBT


For Pakistan, against the backdrop of rising military tensions in South Asia the question of signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Testban Treaty (CTBT), has acquired special significance for Pakistan. Whatever the domestic political fall-out of signing the CTBT, there are strong security-linked considerations that must influence Islamabad’s decision to sign the CTBT. While within the national security context the act itself of signing of the CTBT does not per se ensure or undermine Pakistan’s security, it does have implications on Pakistan’s negotiating position on the broader Washington-led and the G-8 defined four point non-proliferation agenda, on the Pak-India bilateral dialogue on non-proliferation and on Islamabad’s and on the extent to which Islamabad retains an autonomous reaction-space for itself against an increasingly aggressive Indian military posture.

Within the context of signing the CTBT, Islamabad also needs to guard against constructing faulty premises justifying the signing of the CTBT. For example its premise for signing the CTBT, the ‘reward premise’ is a faulty one. The wrong premise that signing will bring IMF funding, foreign investment. After all even before Pakistan’s decision to not sign the CTBT was announced Pakistan IMF had held back the $130 million tranche because Pakistan had not kept its commitment of levying the GST. Similarly the unresolved IPPs matter too is responsible for IMF holding back its committed funding. Other issues like muzzling of a section of the press, pressure on a section of the NGOs in NWFP, personalized approach to national management and the government’s paralysis on problems like honour killings also influence the decisions of especially the European Union to continue to provide financial assistance to Pakistan. Obviously in addition to being a faulty premise the ‘reward premise’ is also an undesirable and debilitating premise. It is one that perpetuates a dependency mindset on the one hand and looks for a fire-fighting approach to tackling with administrative and economic problems that require governments to opt for self-reform, institutional reform and for a commitment to the rule of law.

American public reaction to unconfirmed reports regarding Pakistan’s decision to not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been a swift one. The State Department spokesman James Rubin clearly stated Washington’s reading of Pakistan’s stated position on the issue as well as the US’s expectation regarding Pakistan’s decision on signing the CTBT. On Pakistan’s stated position, referring probably to the Prime Minister’s speech at the 53rd session of UN General Assembly and to Pak-US bilateral discussions, Rubin claimed that, ‘Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had given a positive assurance during his visit to New York last year about Pakistan’s intention of signing the CTBT.’ Rubin added that, ‘We hope that Pakistan abides by that commitment. Our stance is clear that it would be in everybody’s interest if Pakistan signs the CTBT.’

The US spokesman’s recall of Nawaz Sharif’s ‘positive assurance’ on CTBT is selective, it is incorrect. The Pakistani Prime Minister had qualified his position on signing the CTBT by clearly stating in his September 23 General Assembly speech that, ‘Pakistan’s adherence to the treaty will take place only in conditions free from coercion or pressure … We expect that arbitrary restrictions imposed on Pakistan by multilateral institutions will be speedily removed. We also expect that discriminatory sanctions against Pakistan will be lifted and we count on the full support of the world community for the just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.’

Washington’s public and selective recall of Nawaz Sharif’s commitment is understandable. Although the CTBT is a treaty that was drawn up in 1996 though not approved in the Conference on Disarmament, the sole multilateral arms negotiating body of the UN, and later adopted by the General Assembly, Washington has led the efforts to get the 44 nuclear and threshold nuclear states to sign and ratify the treaty. Although United States itself has not ratified the treaty and India too is unlikely to sign it any time in the near future, there is an apparent urgency to have Pakistan sign it. Washington, which leads the P-5 and the G-8 efforts to contain nuclearization of South Asia, has made virtually no progress since May 1998 on any of the five non-nuclear non-proliferation benchmarks. While India and Pakistan have both conveyed their qualified willingness to sign the CTBT, India for reasons of prestige and power will neither sign nor ratify it. Pakistan meanwhile for security reasons will be compelled to hold off the signing of the treaty.

In principle Pakistan is not against signing and ratifying the CTBT. Pakistan fully understands the multi-dimensional negative, regional and global fall-outs (economic, environmental, security) of nuclear proliferation. Pakistan has remained steadfast in its commitment to non-proliferation as has been demonstrated by a cash-strapped Pakistan’s refusal to engage in any deal to sell nuclear technology. However, like all other peaceful and self-respecting countries Pakistan too must remain mindful and responsible vis-a-vis its security concerns supreme. All other considerations must be secondary.

Pakistan’s decision to not sign the CTBT has been interpreted as a fall-out of domestic politics. The fact that signing the CTBT may further fuel the Opposition’s allegations against the government being ‘soft’ on security matters but beyond the dictates of politics there are key security considerations that demand a rethink on Pakistan’s late 1998 having achieved an overt nuclear capability, Pakistan could have considered signing the CTBT.

In reviewing the current security situation for Pakistan there are at least five elements that require attention.

One, if the ‘conditions of coercion and pressure’ defined partially by Washington’s military sanctions on Pakistan have been removed? No they still hold since Pakistan-specific military sanctions imposed under Pressler and the Glenn Amendments still hold.

Two, what is India’s response to Pakistan’s concrete efforts aimed at minimizing the possibility of a nuclear arms race? India’s response has been an irresponsible one. It has outright rejected the Strategic Restraint Regime proposal given to India in October 1998. The SRR proposal covered both the nuclear and conventional restraint matters. India has conveyed to Pakistan that on matters related to nuclear doctrine etc India will not engage in a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan.

Three, what concrete steps is India taking to minimize the military-related threat perceptions of its neighbours? Delhi has significantly opted for an increasingly aggressive posture. Its draft nuclear doctrine illustrates the point which plans for the acquisition, operationalization and deployment of air, land and sea-based nuclear weapons and massive build-up of sophisticated conventional weapons.

Four, what is the overall tenor of India’s interaction with the countries in the region? The answer lies in India’s shooting down of Pakistan’s unarmed naval plane, in India’s late August attack on Pakistani military posts across the LoC in the Shyok sector, India’s early September initiation of illegal construction on disputed territory along the Bangladesh-India border and India’s continued repression of the Kashmiri freedom fighters in IHK. Instead of basing relations with its neighbours on mutual respect, sovereignty, equality and non-interference India has adopted the ‘bully’ approach. It has consistently sought to use strong-armed tactics instead of legal parameters for resolving outstanding bilateral issues. In Pakistan’s case India has not wanted to resolve any one of its outstanding problems through fair and legal means.

Five, what is the international community’s response to India’s nuclear brandishing doctrine aimed at backing the hegemonic ambitions of India with deadly nuclear weapons? The international community’s response has been one of benign neglect and restricted at best to ‘word power alone’; to very occasional recriminations. For example the international community’s response to the shooting down of the Atlantic, when India had obviously violated the April 6 1991 Pak-India Agreement on Prevention of Air Space Violations and For Permitting Over Flights and Landings By Military Aircraft, was one of treating the victim and the violator of law on an equal basis.

Similarly over the last few days there are indications that Indian-Israeli collaboration in the military and especially in the nuclear field is on the increase. Pakistan views this development with great concern. Sale of Israeli military equipment and of weapons, system to India has been reported in the Israeli press. However no notice has been taken of what is clearly a disturbing development, by the United States. The Arab League however has issued a statement criticising this Indo-Israel nuclear-based defence collaboration.

Notably India is now attempting to create a ‘fog of misunderstanding’ vis-a-vis the threat that India itself poses to regional and global peace. It has launched a well orchestrated propaganda against Pakistan by linking the issue of Kashmiri freedom struggle to the issue of ‘terrorism’ and more specifically to the issue of Osama Bin Ladin. This blatant attempt by India to deflect world attention from its own nuclear-backed hegemonic and expansionist designs and bully tactics needs to be clearly understood by the international community.

Given these realities Islamabad has no option but, at least for now, close the question of signing the CTBT. As for Washington’s pressures that Islamabad must honour a commitment Pakistan in fact did not make, American officials must reflect on its own very recent moves on non-proliferation and on adherence to legally binding treaties. Last weeks in its disarmament negotiations with the Russians, Washington has asked for changes to a 27-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Agreement (ABM) signed between the United States and between Russia. According to a Washington Post reports seeks changes in the ABM agreement which will allow it to place ‘100 interceptor missiles in Alaska.’ According to the September 9 report of the International Herald Tribune Washington has justified this missile placement in view of the ‘threat’ it believes it faces ‘from few incoming warheads from a state such as North Korea, Iraq or Iran.’ Also, according to the IHT report, improvement in US technologies has prompted the US to seek amendment in the treaty.

Surely the Americans must understand that the nuclear-laced military threat that Pakistan faces from its immediate neighbour and adversary India, requires an appropriate response from Pakistan; like deciding against signing the CTBT at present. After all Washington is demanding legalized violation of the ABM treaty because of its threat perception focusing on North Korea and Iraq , which are only an ocean and a few seas away from the US. Also unlike and Iraq, which have no track record of a hostile military engagement with the US, India’s track record of its relations with Pakistan and its stated regional and global ambitions, merely highlights the future military threat that Pakistan faces from India.