Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and South Asia


Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) requests for prohibition of all forms of nuclear tests. Many international experts consider it as a second serious step to control nuclear proliferation after nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The idea to ban nuclear test was passed in ninth session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1954, thirteen years before NPT was enforced and it is on UNGA agenda since 1957.

The idea of banning nuclear test flourished over the years, however, nuclear weapon states kept on improving and testing their arsenals. In 1963, Soviet Union tested 50 megaton Hydrogen Bomb. The health problems because of nuclear weapon tests in atmosphere forced nations to sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT).

Underground tests were still carried out by NPT signatory nuclear states until early 1990s. In early 1990 most of developed countries established computer-based techniques that could help them to calculate success and yield of nuclear weapons by simulating the whole test.

In 1996, major nuclear powers started working on a draft of CTBT and many nations were ready to sign it but a real turning point was when the US senate rejected it in 1999. Since then many international scholars have called it a dead horse.

Pakistan and India are not signatories of NPT but have nuclear weapons. In past Pakistan was an advocate of Nuclear disarmament and participated in several conferences from 1984 to 1986 to achieve nuclear disarmament through a nuclear test ban treaty. In 1987, it proposed a regional Nuclear Weapons Free Zone for South Asia but it was rejected by India. In 1996, Pakistan voted in favour of CTBT but India voted against it. In May 1998, India tested its nuclear devices and forced Pakistan to follow suit.

In May 1998, India tested its nuclear devices and forced Pakistan to follow suit. In 1998 the discussion to sign CTBT was at peak and Pakistan showed its willingness to sign CTBT, with a condition that if India would reciprocate and the sanctions put on the country would be lifted away. In 1999, President Musharraf said that the objective of CTBT can only be achieved if there is coercion free environment in South Asia. After formation of Command and Control structure, Pakistan issued a statement showing that it believes in “minimum credible deterrence.” Later in 2001, Pakistan proposed strategic restraint regime in South Asia in which once again there was a suggestion of bilateral suspension of nuclear tests and it was rejected by India. In 2003, Pakistan was pressurized to disarm unilaterally but it was rejected on the basis of its security concerns.

It is important to note here that nuclear-free zone in South Asia has been suggested many times by Pakistan but each time India rejected it.

Pakistan however, has now changed its stance on disarmament and is working towards full fledge deterrence. Several international reports are showing that Pakistan has more nuclear weapons as compared to India. India is conventionally superior and the present Indian nuclear doctrine of second strike capability and no first use is just because of Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons. If Pakistan gives up its nuclear weapons the chance of conventional attack by India will be much more.

Presently, CTBT is not at top priority in international nuclear politics, so it cannot be expected that it will be signed and ratified soon by all major powers. However, India and Pakistan have to design their policy about future tests. The existing deterrence in South Asia does not require any more tests as well. Both India and Pakistan are aware of each other’s nuclear capabilities and the whole world knows that both have nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have no formal role in warfare. Mao called these weapons are “paper tigers” and their increasing number have no connection with the strength of defence.

Moreover, both countries have more threats from internal enemy rather than each other or external enemy. The internal enemy can be handled only with conventional capability. So, it is necessary to modernize their forces rather than spending too much on increasing and testing their nuclear arsenals.

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  • My Take

    Nuclear deterrence is the key strategic factor safeguarding Pakistan’s national security. It is without doubt that the attainment of nuclear weapons gave the nation renewed confidence as it
    ensured the security of the homeland because it was now at par with the ‘enemy’. Pakistan was long claiming that it did possess nuclear technology but did not intend to test the weapons. Initially, the country seemed to have been seeking only civilian nuclear capabilities and the civilian nuclear programme began with participation in the US Atoms for Peace initiative. We were a reluctant entrant in the nuclear weapons game.

  • chinpin ginpin

    Pakistan being a peaceful country have remained reluctant to join nuclear club for more than 20 years, it was actually the India who first introduced the nuclear technology in South Asia and compelled Pakistan to follow suit in response to hyping security concerns. Despite of the fact that Pakistan became member of nuclear society in 1998, it remained vigilant enough in propagating the real meaning and true efforts in countering the proliferation activities in the region. For this purpose it offered different disarmament proposals to India but every time India showed reluctance and apprehension towards disarmament. For now and for the coming time considering the every increasing investments and development in nuclear or military infrastructure of India Pakistan has to seek for alternatives and to make itself deterrent enough in response to India’s aggressions.

    • Swift Bird

      Now the priorities of Pakistan has been changed. Before nuclearization the Pakistan politics was different, compared to its policy after joining the nuclear club. Pakistan belief has been changed now and now it believes in ” Full Spectrum Deterrence” rather than “Minimum Credible Deterrence.” No doubt tactical nuclear weapons are required to “Cold Start Doctrine” type strategy of India but it is now necessary for Pakistan to develop computer simulation test techniques because deterrence does not depend only on capability but also on credibility.

  • Limpkisar

    Pakistan’s position on the CTBT remains very clear that Pakistan will
    not be the first to resume testing in the region since it was not the
    one to start it in the first place. This notwithstanding, the dynamics
    in South Asia at play today are different from those a decade earlier
    when both India and Pakistan were new nuclear states. With the signing
    of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the determinants and prospects of
    Pakistan’s signing the CTBT have become more difficult on four broad
    levels. First, India has made it absolutely clear that it wants to
    retain the option of nuclear testing. This alone leaves no room for
    further speculation that Pakistan’s signing of CTBT would be detrimental
    to its national interest. Post Indo-US nuclear deal, the Indian stance
    on CTBT was reiterated quite categorically when it was stated that,
    “New Delhi would not sign the CTBT even it was ratified by other

  • H. Haris Flyn

    Pakistan has been working on several aspects of CTBT but eventually still it is not a feasible agreement to be signed. CTBT can restrict the progress in the quality and quantity of nuclear program. Pakistan’s capacity to acquire or enhance weapons of nuclear technology will be constrained. Pakistan’s nuclear team is capable and is working on Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility (DARHT) facility which is soon to be commissioned and can assist it to advance in the absence of physical testing. Pakistan has not been the initiator in testing the nuclear weapons in the region so it will not be the first to test it again!