Press Advisory
12 May 1998

Indian Nuclear Tests Challenge Nuclear Powers

The three Indian nuclear weapons test explosions yesterday pose a direct challenge to the nuclear powers' policy of maintaining their nuclear arsenals while denying such weapons to other countries. The Indian admission of possessing nuclear weapons presents a clear and present danger to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Only three days before the Indian nuclear weapon tests, the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT had ended without any substantive results. Despite broad public and international pressure, the five official nuclear weapon states China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States had refused to commit themselves even to modest nuclear disarmament steps, thereby preventing any agreement during the two week long session in Geneva. The session ended Friday late night, completely deadlocked over what steps to take next in nuclear disarmament.

India - one of five states worldwide which are not members to the NPT - has a long history of calling for complete nuclear disarmament. While the three tests of Monday clearly speak a different language, it might not be too late to take India by its word. The nuclear tests could have had the purpose of consolidating India’s nuclear capabilities before it decides to sign on to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The fact that India tested three different types of nuclear explosive devices (fission, low-yield and thermonuclear) could be seen as an attempt to solidify existing nuclear technologies. Currently, 149 countries have signed the CTBT, 13 have ratified the treaty. Under current agreements, India's signature would be needed for the Entry-Into-Force of the CTBT.

"There are no indications that the Indian government wants to join the international nuclear arms control process", says Oliver Meier, Senior Analyst at the Berlin Information Center for Transatlantic Security (BITS). "While strongly condemning the Indian test, the international community should, however, leave that window of opportunity open to India."

"The official nuclear weapon states themselves have continuously argued that the NPT and the CTBT represent nuclear nonproliferation measures and not nuclear disarmament measures," says Otfried Nassauer, Director of BITS. "This argument is now coming back to haunt them: As long as they do not commit themselves to outlaw nuclear weapons just like they outlawed biological and chemical weapons, states will be tempted to possess these weapons of mass destruction."

For further information please contact
Oliver Meier at +41-22-731 0812 or
Otfried Nassauer +49-30-441 0220
FAX +49-30-441 0221

BITS is an independent research institute working on Foreign and Security issues.