30 December 2009

Manmohan signals return to Vajpayee line on CTBT

Tells Yukio Hatoyama that U.S., Chinese accession will create ‘new situation’ ...

30 December 2009
The Hindu

Manmohan signals return to Vajpayee line on CTBT

Siddharth Varadarajan and K.V. Prasad

New Delhi: While reiterating India’s commitment to its unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his visiting Japanese counterpart that any Indian accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would have to await American and Chinese ratification.

The Prime Minister’s remarks signal a subtle return to the CTBT line adopted by the erstwhile Vajpayee government, which declared soon after the 1998 nuclear tests that India “would not stand in the way” of the treaty entering into force.

Dr. Singh told Yukio Hatoyama during their discussions on Tuesday morning that there was as yet no national consensus on India acceding to the CTBT. But if the U.S. and China were to complete their ratification process, this would likely generate momentum within the country in favour of accession, senior officials told The Hindu.

Giving an account of his talks on the matter with Dr. Singh at the joint press conference later, Mr. Hatoyama told reporters that he had conveyed Tokyo’s desire that India sign and ratify the CTBT. “Globally there is a rising momentum of [the CTBT] entering into force. I expressed my hope that along with China and the USA, India will sign and ratify CTBT,” the Japanese leader said, adding: “The [Indian] Prime Minister said with regard to the CTBT [that] should the U.S. and China sign, it will create a new situation.”

Since the CTBT cannot enter into force without the ratification of the U.S., China, India, Pakistan and a handful of other states, the Vajpayee-era formulation was seen throughout the world as an assurance that once Washington and Beijing became parties, New Delhi would follow, on the expectation that Islamabad and the other stragglers were quickly brought on board then.

The Prime Minister’s latest message to Japan is significant because the UPA government has until now avoided directly or indirectly endorsing the Vajpayee line. Indeed, Dr. Singh and other senior officials had linked India’s refusal to sign the CTBT to the fact that the treaty does not promote the cause of disarmament.

In a meeting with Indian Foreign Service probationers in June 2008 during the height of the domestic political controversy over the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, the Prime Minister had said India would not sign the CTBT “if … it came into being.”

By reverting to the earlier position, India hopes to remind Japan and other countries concerned about the test ban that the real obstacle to the CTBT’s entry-into-force is the U.S. and that is where any diplomatic pressure ought to be applied.

Unlike the CTBT, India and Japan presented a unified position on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, with the two Prime Ministers supporting the immediate commencement of negotiations and the FMCT’s early conclusion.

But cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy is still some distance away. “We discussed civil nuclear cooperation. This would become a very important agenda in the future.”

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