CTBT: A Growing Challenge

With the end of the mutual deterrence between east and the west, and with the nuclearisation of South Asia, number of serious efforts were made to control the spread of nuclear weapons, however, these efforts got little success.

In late 90’s the comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was finalized but it failed for several reasons. Later, it was placed in front of the United Nations General Assembly for negotiations and after a consecutive debate with recent historical resolution taken on CTBT, it is almost signed by 183 signatories and 166 ratifications.

The desire for which CTBT was introduced is with the aim of freezing the nuclear advancement used to produce weapons of mass destruction or to condemn any step in that direction. But those who signed the Treaty have never materialized it which shows that the step was merely taken for point scoring.

Main features of the CTBT include; banning any nuclear weapons test explosion and to establish an organization to implement its provision and international verification measures. Overlooking that, things got weird and the treaty was made into a big fuss by international powers through their diplomatic muscles.

A Case for South Asia

Interestingly, India has the world’s fourth largest military power and has been a major arms exporter. Since its existence, India has developed a policy to enhance its weapons program for its offensive potentials, dragging the region into arms procurement.

India’s future with CTBT is still unwritten, as India did not support the treaty in 1996 — and still does not — but it had been very supportive during negotiations to fulfill its hegemonic designs and to acquire a permanent seat at Security Council. Does India really believe that by pulling the region into an arms race and having a mass level of atrocities in Kashmir, can attain a permanent seat at Security Council? No- not for its role as a regional hegemon but there is a chance that there bro-mance with international community may lead to such aspiration that it have.

The most tragic part is, while re-calling the steps taken by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister’s famous initiative in 1954 for a “standstill agreement” on nuclear testing that leads to the creation of Treaty has deliberately tangled it. The very country that paved the path for standstill agreement and is a country to contribute to strengthen the global non-proliferation in view of Narendra Modi has championed the nuclear technology for galvanizing the devastation. Also, it has been hard for India in these decades to work for nuclear non-proliferation efforts which is a vivid illustration of increasing the dangerous race towards Armageddon.  

Pakistan being a reluctant entry who has been struggling to achieve the growing conventional arms imbalance with India, with determined western opposition. Keeping the circumstances in mind, Pakistan’s security critically depends on nuclear deterrence.

Adding into this, Pakistan is not the one that introduced nuclear weapons in the region but it was India that created this dense fog. Keeping in mind the national security interests in mind, Pakistan must not sign the CTBT even if India signs because the unilateral signature of the Treaty as such would be suicidal, placing Pakistan at the mercy of India. Also until and unless there is no equality in dealing nuclear and non-nuclear state, between haves and have-nots.

To this end, Pakistan must scuttle its defensive mode in a way that it can muster to reverse the discriminatory behavior of international community of favoring India. Pakistan must also motivate an active diplomatic campaign at the UN to preserve Pakistan’s credibility of nuclear deterrence.


To be sure, it’s a more disturbing fact that this Treaty has actually became political issue rather than a strategic one with nuclear powers pointing fingers at one another. Also the dynamics in South Asia is largely at play where it is not same now as it was in decade or more ago. While, United States has also not ratified CTBT it has with that increased the rift between India and Pakistan favoring one over the other where Indo-U.S. deal was a major set-back. Though all these steps of favoring diplomacy and Indian advancement from ground forces to inducting nuclear submarines, has made it difficult for Pakistan to sign such a Treaty but the only way forward is to first solve the pressing border problems, resolving Kashmir issue according to UN resolution, and addressing the increased number of cross border militancy in a pragmatic way.

Usman Ali Khan
Usman Ali Khan
Pursuing M.Phil degree at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad Freelance writer and blogger E-mail: Usmanalikhan6[at]gmail.com