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India-US differences on CTBT may recede with move towards nuclear disarmament: Saran

Prime Minister's Special Envoy on the India-US Nuclear Agreement Shyam Saran has said that Indo-US differences over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) could recede into the background if the world moved categorically towards nuclear disarmament in a credible time-frame.

Speaking on "Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement: Expectations and Consequences" at the Brookings Institution here on Monday, Mr Saran explained the background in which India did not sign the CTBT.

"However, since its nuclear test in 1998, India has observed a unilateral and voluntary moratorium and is committed to its continuance. This is spelt out in the Indo-US Joint Statement of 2005. It is also our conviction that if the world moves categorically towards nuclear disarmament in a credible time-frame, then Indo-US differences over the CTBT would probably recede into the background," he said.

The CTBT issue has been seat as potentially a contentious one in India's relations with the new US Administration led by President Barack Obama.

President Obama has made it clear that he would seek Senate ratification of the CTBT, which the US has signed, and India has not. He has also promised to launch a "diplomatic effort to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force."

Mr Saran explained to the gathering that India had been a consistent votary of the CTBT but did not sign it as it eventually emerged because it was not explicitly linked to the goal of nuclear disarmament.

"For India, this was crucial since it was not acceptable to legitimize, in any way, a permanent division between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. The other reason was the manner in which the CTBT was pushed through, bypassing the Conference on Disarmament, which works by consensus, and bringing the issue before the UN General Assembly," he said.

According to him, this was done to over-ride Indian objections and was justifiably seen in India as a not too subtle attempt to foreclose India’s options.

"Additionally, India was included in a category of states whose signature and ratification was deemed necessary in order for the Treaty to come into force, again an unusual provision, directed at putting international pressure on India to join a Treaty whose provisions it did not agree with. It was against this background that India did not sign the CTBT," he explained.

At the outset, Mr Saran spoke about the business opportunities opening up for both countries as a result of the agreement on civil nuclear cooperation.

He urged the US to scrap the so-called Entity List, which still prohibits sale of US technology and goods to a number of Indian high-tech companies, given the new level of bilateral relations.

The former Foreign Secretary, who was involved in the negotiations that led to the India-US civil nuclear agreement of July, 2005, said India's growth rate could be affected slightly because of the current global economic crisis. But he said energy and defence would remain at the top of the national agenda and this should encourage the US to look at India as a welcome source of demand for its goods and services.

According to him, 10,000 MW of nuclear energy could translate into US $ 150 billion worth of projects, with significant busess opportunities and potential collaboration for both Indian and US companies. Similarly, if India maintains its current level of defence spending to achieve its medium and long-term goals of force upgradation, then a growing part of the expected 10-year acquisition plan of $ 120 billion could be reoriented towards the US, he said.

"This will require the US to overcome lingering Indian doubts about the reliability of U.S. supplies. Simultaneously both of us need to work together to find a mutually acceptable solution which will take care of US legal requirements about end use monitoring of transferred defence articles and also meet our sensitivities, " he said.

Mr Saran said that as a result of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the two countries were, potentially, at a different level of engagement on these hitherto sensitive and even contentious issues, compared to the past.

"For India, the U.S. acknowledgement, endorsed by consensus by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, that India’s non-proliferation record and its current credentials are impeccable, has given the country a welcome sense of vindication. From being an outlier, India is now accepted as a partner in the global nuclear domain," he said.

Mr Saran said President Obama's intention to bring nuclear disarmament back on the US arms control and disarmament agenda corresponded nearly with India's own long-standing advocacy of nuclear disarmament as one of the highest priorities for the international community.

He said India would certainly support any proposed dialogue among all the declared nuclear weapon states on how to make their nuclear capabilities more transparent, create greater confidence and move towards meaningful reductions and eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons.

"The best way to follow up could be for India and the US to support the setting up of an Ad Hoc Working Group in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on nuclear disarmament. India has proposed appointing a special coordinator at the CD to carry out consultations on measures which could lead to consensus and form a basis for the mandate for a Ad-hoc working group on nuclear disarmament. We are ready to consult with the U.S. on this subject," he said.

On the Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty (FMCT), Mr Saran said India has held a consistent position and envisages it as a significant contribution to nuclear non-proliferation in all its aspects.

"We have encouraged the negotiation and early conclusion of a multilateral, universally applicable and effectively verifiable treaty on Fissile Material Cut-Off at the Conference on Disarmament," he said.

He noted that the Bush Administration had signalled a change in policy, to insist that the FMCT should have no verification procedures and that national means would be relied upon for ensuring compliance.

"Therefore, even though the July 18, 2005 Indo-US Joint Communiqué states that the two countries would cooperate to bring about an early conclusion of the FMCT in Geneva, the nature of the treaty was left deliberately ambiguous, precisely because India continued to favour multilateral verification procedures. This is also the consensus view among Conference members. We welcome the Obama Administration’s reversion to this consensus and are prepared to work together for the early conclusion of an FMCT. We need bilateral consultations on the issue of the likely mandate and scope of the negotiations," he said.

Mr Saran said India was one of the countries taking the lead in raising international awareness of the dangers inherent in the possible link between Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and international terrorism.

"The possible acquisition, through clandestine means, of nuclear weapons or other WMDs, by terrorist and jihadi groups, adds an entirely new dimension to the nuclear threat, a threat which cannot be deterred by the doctrines of retaliatory use. In fact, the dangers of nuclear terrorism, are another reason to seek the early elimination of nuclear weapons," he said.

"For as long as there is a world divided between nuclear weapon haves and have-nots, there will always be the danger of proliferation to additional countries. This is what gives rise to a clandestine network of the kind run from Pakistan and which creates potential sources of supplies for terrorist or jihadi groups," he said.

Mr Saran said the greatest likelihood of such a threat emanates from India's neighbourhood.

"What is encouraging, from an Indian perspective, is President Obama’s clear recognition of this danger and his willingness to confront it with a sense of urgency. He has committed himself to working together with other concerned countries in developing and implementing a comprehensive set of standards to protect nuclear materials from terrorist threat. During his election campaign, the President also spoke about his intention to convene a Summit on preventing nuclear terrorism. We are willing to work together with the U.S. on this shared concern, which to us, living in a dangerous neighbourhood, is of great importance," he said.

President Obama has also spoken about his plans to expand the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) “from its current focus on stopping illicit nuclear shipments to eradicating nuclear market networks, like the remnants of the Abdul Qadeer Khan organization.”

Mr Saran pointed out that India is not yet a member of PSI and there have been doubts in the country about its consonance with international maritime law.

"However, it is my own belief that India should have an open mind on joining the PSI and in supporting its expanded mandate as envisaged by President Obama. This fits in very well with India’s own concern over clandestine proliferation, especially in our own neighbourhood, and the likelihood of such clandestine activities facilitating the acquisition of nuclear weapons or fissile material, by a terrorist or a jihadi group. We look forward to exploring these ideas further, in a spirit of shared concern and convergent interest, with the US," he said.

He also said India welcomed President Obama's intention to strengthen international non-proliferation efforts.
"We welcome this and are willing to work together with the U.S. and the rest of the international community in building a new, effective and credible non-proliferation architecture. The new Administration has already acknowledged a key element of the Indian approach – that efforts at ensuring global non-proliferation, horizontally to additional states, are unlikely to succeed unless they are linked, integrally, with visible and concrete progress towards nuclear disarmament. Some of the initiatives I have touched upon before, fall into the broad category of non-proliferation, such as the FMCT. However, there is specific reference to restricting the expansion of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle facilities that are capable of producing bomb grade plutonium and uranium. This could take the form of creating regional or international nuclear fuel banks to meet the nuclear fuel needs of countries that do not possess reprocessing or enrichment facilities.

"India has developed indigenously a robust nuclear programme covering the complete fuel cycle. Nevertheless, in practical terms, we are already committed, in the Indo-US Joint Statement of July 18, 2005, to not transferring reprocessing and enrichment technologies and equipment to countries that do not possess them. Furthermore, we have expressed our willingness to ourselves host a regional or multilateral fuel bank, to supply nuclear fuel to other states, under appropriate IAEA safeguards. We would also be prepared, as a supplier nation, to participate in an international fuel bank, which may be located in a third country. It may be however difficult for India to endorse a view that there ought to be a discriminating legal regime put in place, which would allow only some states to possess reprocessing or enrichment facilities but not others. Therefore, while reserving our position on a question of principle, we would be prepared to work together with the U.S. and other friendly countries on practical steps to discourage proliferation," he said.

Mr Saran welcomed President Obama’s intention to join multilateral efforts to prevent military conflict in space and to negotiate an agreement to prohibit the testing of anti-satellite weapons.

"This is an area of convergence on which we would be happy to work together with the U.S. and contribute to a multilateral agreement," he said.

Overall, Mr Saran felt that the initiatives President Obama has signalled his intention to pursue revealed a number of points of convergence between the two countries in the pursuit of a stable, peaceful and eventually nuclear weapons-free world.

"Some of these initiatives have been followed up and announced after the President’s inauguration, such as nuclear disarmament and CTBT ratification. We await the elaboration of others, including the proposed summit on nuclear terrorism, the high level dialogue among declared nuclear weapons states to kickstart the process of nuclear disarmament, the pursuit of an anti-satellite weapon agreement and the elimination of clandestine nuclear proliferation networks.

"This security-related agenda is substantive and no less important than the follow-up on the civil nuclear cooperation agreement in terms of expanded nuclear and high tech commerce. These are early days yet in the new Administration and India, too, is headed towards general elections. The ongoing financial and economic crisis is obviously an over-riding preoccupation not only for the US but for India as well.

"Nevertheless, I believe that the Civil Nuclear agreement has opened up several areas of mutual interest that are worth pursuing and which should, therefore, remain within our sights in the days ahead," Mr Saran added.

NNN

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