VIENA: In a renewed effort, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) has offered India an 'Observer' status and access to state-of-art International Monitoring System (IMS) data.
More than 20 years have passed since the CTBT opened for signature in 1996, with the objective of banning all nuclear explosions everywhere and by everyone. Till today, it has not been able to become a global law because it is considered as 'discriminatory' by countries such as India.
In a free-wheeling chat with a group of Indian journalists at its headquarters in Vienna in Austria, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said he fully understood the concerns of India.
"I am not asking India to ratify the treaty, but it can become an Observer, allowing India to attend our meeting; see how CTBTO works and takes the time needed in making the decision."
To start with, he invited India to participate in the science and technology conference scheduled for next month, which will bring together around 1,000 scientists, technologists, academics and CTBTO policy-makers. The conference will be addressed by former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on June 24.
"The conference is intended to bring the countries that are not signatories to the CTBT. India can come and participate in scientific and technological discussions where you can see what is up there....and make a decision whether to join us as an observer or not. That is all am hoping for. Am not asking India to ratify," Zerbo said.
Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson and Joint Secretary of the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), has not responded to the e-mail sent by Express seeking a response to the CTBTO's outreach. However, W Selvamurthy, former Chief Controller, Research and Development (Life Sciences and International Corporation), Defence Research and Development Organisation, said there was nothing wrong with India exploring the possibility of becoming an Observer in the CTBTO.
"India is an emerging a global superpower. It is now a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) with a clear nuclear programme. India has always championed the cause of a nuclear weapon-free world, but being a sovereign nation with the hostile neighbourhood, it should be prepared to protect itself. That does not mean we should not engage in dialogue. India can become a CTBTO Observer," Selvamurthy said.
To a specific question from Express whether the CTBTO was proactive enough to bring India onboard post-1996 failed talks, Zerbo said a few years ago, a delegation was sent to Pakistan as well as India offering Observer status. While Pakistan accepted, the delegation could not even meet Indian authorities.
Benefits of becoming an Observer
Zerbo said India can benefit immensely from becoming a CTBTO Observer. Over the years, the organisation setting has changed a lot.
"We are making data available to people who were not traditionally getting it."
For instance, the virtual Data Exploitation Centre (vDEC) provides scientists access to IMS data to conduct research and to publish new findings.
The strong relationship between the scientific and technological community and the CTBTO helps ensure that the IMS remains at the forefront of technological innovation and that no nuclear explosion goes undetected.
He said the earlier CTBTO had task leader for data confidentiality, which does not exist anymore. It is an established fact that IMS, consisting of 337 facilities worldwide, is the most sophisticated system. "The benefit of such a system has to go to all countries. India has a lot to gain.
In 2006, North Korea has conducted a one-ton yield nuclear test which was detected by IMS which was only 50 per cent then. Now, over 90 per cent of the facilities are already in operation. I will fight for India getting access to IMS data even if it is just an Observer and does not ratify the treaty."
Why not put pressure on China & US to ratify?
When asked why the CTBTO was not putting pressure on the United States, China, North Korea and Pakistan to ratify the treaty, the official said China had been taking small steps and in the last 15 years, five IMS stations had been certified in China. The United States has not cut the funds. "A small step for a country like India would mean huge international community," Zerbo said.
About The Treaty
The 1996 CTBT bans all nuclear explosions, everywhere and by everyone.
Before the CTBT can enter into force, all of the 44 countries listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty must ratify.
These countries possessed nuclear power or research reactors when the CTBT was negotiated.
Eight of the Annex 2 States have not yet ratified the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the State of Israel, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the United States of America.
The Verification Regime
The IMS consists of 337 facilities worldwide which monitor the planet for signs of nuclear explosions.
Over 90% of the facilities are already in operation, and the IDC in Vienna continuously processes this data stream.
Both raw data and analysis results are made available to all 184 States Signatories of the CTBT.
(This correspondent was in Vienna on the invitation of Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), USA)