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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, NGO Statement 4, 1999

NGO Statement 4

Exactly one year ago, on this very day, India conducted a set of three nuclear explosions; reverberations from these still continue to affect us all. They were followed shortly thereafter by more explosions at the same site and nuclear tests by Pakistan. The last year has also seen the continued lack of cooperation by Iraq and intransigence by Israel with regard to their nuclear

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programs. There was also the launch of a new missile, or satellite, by North Korea, and indications from Belarus of renewed interest in nuclear weapons. All of these have made the task of nuclear disarmament even more urgent than ever.

The actions of these states, and those of the Nuclear Weapon States, are quite in contrast to the record of most of the countries that signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is clear that the vast majority of the international community rejects the notion of nuclear weapons as providing any kind of benefit. We completely share this sentiment and hope that these few recalcitrant states also realize this soon.

South Asia

The events surrounding the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan are sufficiently well known and it is not necessary to delve into them in detail. There is little doubt that the chief motivations and pressures to conduct these tests were domestic. However, in explaining the decision to test, the Indian Prime Minister and senior policy makers mentioned several external reasons. These included an inequitable international non-proliferation regime and a threat from a nuclear-armed China. Earlier on, India had also pointed to the US stockpile stewardship program, as one of its reasons to vote against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Regardless of their veracity, these claims allowed the government to justify its actions and the sudden change of policy to its citizens. Recognizing the role played by the nuclear weapon states in India's decision does not in any way legitimize India's actions.

Pakistan, for its part, has firmly tied its own policies to India. This has created a situation wherein two neighboring states, with a history of conflict and an unresolved dispute that has led to two wars in the past, possess nuclear weapons. The recent missile tests only exacerbate the dangers.

While a sustainable solution, here as elsewhere, requires the complete abolition of nuclear weapons from the region and the world, there are some temporary palliatives that could help. The international community must continue to pressure the two countries not to follow the example of the Nuclear Weapon States by deploying their nuclear weapons. Further, the two governments should be encouraged to follow the suggestions of several peace groups in their own countries and stop the missile race as well as move the existing missiles away from their border, thereby lowering chances of misperception and accidental conflict. While the events of the past month have lowered the chances of India's signature to the CTBT before September 1999, the two countries should be invited to at least formalize their existing moratoria on nuclear tests in the meanwhile and sign the CTBT at the earliest possible date. And, last, we also request the international community to help stop the repression of those opposed to the tests and similar developments in the two countries.

Middle East

The lack of any movement in the Middle East with regard to the nuclear question is also troubling. The paralysis of the peace process and the vetoing of any course of engagement or cooperation with Iraq by some of the nuclear weapon states only compound the problem. It is vital that progress be made on the Middle East Resolution that was agreed to as part of the NPT extension package. The countries of the region as well as the Nuclear Weapon States must do their part in ensuring the implementation of this resolution.

The methods used to require compliance in this region also deserve scrutiny. Just as in the nuclear weapon states, these countries also started their nuclear programs in secret; their citizens had little control over the process. Thus, punishing the people of these countries, Iraq in particular, by imposing sanctions for actions of the state is unjust and morally unacceptable. Further, by adding to people's sense that the international system is loaded against them, sanctions only increase support for nuclear and other weapon programs.

North Korea

Another region where little progress has been made is North Korea. The test of a new, multi-stage launcher, and reports of manufacture of several nuclear warheads, transfer of missile technology and building a new underground nuclear facility raise serious concern. We are appalled that with famine threatening much of its population, the government of North Korea would choose to invest its resources on such programs. This tragedy only speaks to the necessity of finding ways of changing the current state of affairs. These require immediate implementation of the 1994 KEDO agreement with all parties delivering their commitments.

Belarus

The recent statement by the President of Belarus that the decision to withdraw nuclear weapons from his country was a mistake and that he would welcome them back, demonstrates the reversible nature, at least potentially, of NPT accession. Just as in Russia, this indicates the increasing role played by nuclear weapons in the thinking of Belarus despite the end of the Cold War. This statement is also an example of the many non-nuclear factors that influence the nuclear policies of different countries. In the case of Belarus, the statement is clearly linked to NATO expansion. There is little doubt that their desire for nuclear weapons has been strengthened by NATO's bombardment of Yugoslavia without resorting to the United Nations. Such actions must be firmly rejected.

Conclusion

By developing nuclear weapons, investing large amounts of resources into creating huge arsenals, and going to great lengths to preserve these arsenals, nuclear weapon states have set a bad example. Several countries, in particular India and Pakistan, seem to have learnt the wrong lesson from these examples. Despite their treaty commitments, other countries like Iraq and North Korea have also tried, with mixed results, to go the same route. It is clear that unless the nuclear weapon states deliver their Article VI commitments rapidly, the propensity for other countries to acquire nuclear weapons will only increase. Thus, the events of the last year have only highlighted the necessity of achieving a comprehensive nuclear disarmament regime as soon as possible. The time to start on that path is now.

CONVENOR: M.V. Ramana Center for Energy and Environmental Studies
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
tel 1.609.258.1761; fax 1.609.258.3661; ramana@princeton.edu