Chapter five - The Pakistani nuclear tests

Chapter five - The Pakistani nuclear tests

‘we have settled the score’[1]


5.1        This chapter examines Pakistan’s decision to follow India’s example and detonate its own nuclear devices. It analyses the reasons behind this decision and details the international reaction to Pakistan’s nuclear tests. Further, this chapter identifies and pulls together some of the common threads running through the responses of individual countries and international fora to the recent nuclear tests. 

Pakistani Tests

5.2        The US Administration and in particular President Clinton ‘worked diligently to try to persuade the Pakistani Government to assume the political and moral high ground’ by showing restraint and not matching India’s nuclear tests. The US government entered intensive discussions with the Pakistani Government to explain to it the serious negative consequences of testing. The Pakistanis were made aware that loans to India including $450 million for electrical power distribution; $130 million for hydro-electric generators, $275 million for road construction, and $10 million for promotion of private sector development - a total of $865 million had been postponed. The US Government wanted the Pakistanis to take note of what was happening to India so they could fully appreciate the effect that automatic sanctions required by American law could have on their nation.[2]

5.3        Other countries such as Japan actively engaged Pakistani officials in discussions intended to discourage them from testing nuclear weapons. Canada and Australia offered additional aid to Pakistan on condition that they not conduct nuclear tests. Pakistan was clearly aware of the international opprobrium likely to meet any further nuclear explosions.

5.4        Despite the efforts of the international community to dissuade Pakistan from responding in kind to India’s actions, Pakistan carried out five nuclear tests on 28 May and one on 30 May in the Chagai hills in the remote south-western province of Baluchistan. Information on these tests was at times confusing. According to Pakistani officials the six devices were of the boosted fission type using uranium 235.

5.5        The yields of the five nuclear tests conducted on 28 May were announced officially as 40 KT to 45 KT. According to one of Pakistan’s top nuclear scientists, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, one of these was a ‘big bomb’ with a yield of about 30 KT to 35 KT. The other four were small tactical weapons of low yield which when ‘tipped on small missiles can be used on the battlefield against concentrations of troops’. The sixth test on 30 May had an explosive yield of 15 KT to 18 KT and registered only a faint echo on the global network that tracks earthquakes and underground atomic blasts.[3] As with the Indian data, some seismic yield determinations appear to be smaller than those officially given.[4]

5.6        Pakistan issued few technical details about the nature and scope of the tests. During an interview Dr Khan stated succinctly that the tests were ‘a successful nuclear explosion by all definitions. It was exactly as we had planned and the results were as good as we were hoping’.[5]


Settle the score and restore the strategic balance

5.7        The reaction of the international community after India exploded its nuclear devices demonstrated a strong expectation that Pakistan would indeed follow India down the nuclear path. There was real anticipation that Pakistan would feel compelled to retaliate in order to re-establish the strategic balance in the region.

5.8        Tanvir Ahmed Khan, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, highlighted how tightly Pakistan’s security policies are coupled to India’s. He stated: ‘We have always linked our responses to India. In the past, we have said if India signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the morning, we will do it in the afternoon’.[6]

5.9        The events preceding the Pakistani tests followed a pattern similar to those established before the Indian nuclear blasts. For weeks prior to the tests Pakistan presented itself as a nation fighting for its survival in the face of serious external threats to its security. It unequivocally portrayed India as an aggressor. Indeed, on the very eve of the tests the Pakistani Government made public its fear that India was about to mount an attack. It reported on 28 May, that it had received intelligence suggesting that India was planning to make a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan’s nuclear installations.[7] India dismissed these allegations as ‘utterly absurd and malicious’ propaganda.[8]

5.10      In explaining the reasons behind Pakistan’s nuclear tests, the Pakistani Prime Minister, on 29 May, drew on the main theme that his government had been developing over the past weeks—national security. He stated:

As a self-respecting nation we had no choice left to us. Our hand was forced by the present Indian leadership’s reckless actions. After due deliberation and a careful review of all options we took the decision to restore the strategic balance. The nation would not have expected anything less from its leadership...

Under no circumstances would the Pakistani nation compromise on matters pertaining to its life and existence. Our decision to exercise the nuclear option has been taken in the interests of national self-defence. These weapons are to deter aggression, whether nuclear or conventional. Pakistan will continue to support the goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, especially in the Conference on Disarmament, bearing in mind the new realities.

5.11      The Prime Minister indicated his preparedness to engage in constructive discussions with other countries on ways to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He noted that Pakistanis were fully conscious of the need to handle these weapon systems with the highest sense of responsibility and asserted that they have not and would not transfer sensitive technologies to other states or entities.[9]

5.12      Referring to outside influences, the Prime Minister noted that Pakistan had refused a package of incentives which was being offered to it as a price for exercising restraint, adding that Pakistanis were not afraid of economic sanctions.[10]

5.13       Pakistani business leaders supported the Government’s actions and accepted that national security had been at stake. They asserted, ‘we were forced to go nuclear because of India’s aggression’.[11]

5.14      Throughout the days following the tests, Pakistan held fast to its stand that it had acted in self-defence. On 2 June, the Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram told a special session of the Conference on Disarmament that Pakistan did not instigate or initiate the security crisis in South Asia. Rather, he asserted, they were obliged by security considerations to respond to India’s provocative nuclear tests. He pointed out that India backed up its nuclear tests with threats that culminated in ‘credible reports of planned pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan’s sensitive facilities’. Developing his argument, he stated that ‘others may discount these reports, but Pakistan which has been subject to aggression 3 times could not ignore the nature and depth of the danger’. He added, ‘Thus, the nuclear proliferation crisis was transformed into a major security crisis in South Asia’. According to the ambassador, three factors underpinned Pakistan’s decision to detonate its nuclear devices which he insisted became virtually inevitable. They were:

5.15      The ambassador drew a clear distinction between India’s and Pakistan’s actions: India’s action were provocative, Pakistan’s were reactive; India’s tests destabilised the security balance in South Asia, Pakistan’s tests restabilized the balance of mutual deterrence.[13] He stated that Pakistan was not seeking the status of a nuclear weapon state and that it had given only a bare minimum response.[14]

5.16      Some witnesses appearing before the Committee accepted that Pakistan felt compelled to match India’s nuclear threat by demonstrating its nuclear capability. Dr Yasmeen noted that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were seen to balance India’s nuclear capability but they were also seen to provide an additional shield for Pakistan which lacks strategic depth and could be overrun easily.[15]

Survival as a proud nation

5.17      Unlike India, where it is difficult to disentangle the issues of national security, national prestige and domestic politics in explaining what moved the country to go nuclear, Pakistan’s main consideration was strategic. Pakistan insisted that the issue was one of ‘security, and not status’.[16] Nevertheless, national pride, honour and sense of achievement were also forces propelling Pakistan to test its nuclear weapons. According to one Pakistani analyst: ‘the people and the government were confronted with a very difficult choice: explode the bomb, and prepare to eat grass. Or decide against it, and eat humble pie’.[17] The move to strengthen or enhance Pakistani’s sense of pride and achievement was reflected in the Prime Minister’s announcement. He congratulated the nation on the achievements of its scientists and engineers who, he stated, had made it possible ‘for the people of Pakistan to enter the next century, with confidence in themselves and faith in their destiny’. He told the Pakistani people:

I also know that when we were able to match India in respect of nuclear explosions, the heads of my Pakistani brothers and sisters, the young and elderly, were raised high with pride. They flexed their muscles for any eventuality, and their faces shone with the light of happiness. To enable Pakistan to walk tall, I am determined to sacrifice body and soul.[18]

5.18      This was a speech appealing to nationalistic sentiment in a people who, despite obstacles, were determined to repel any threat to their nation. Dr Abdul Qadir Khan, held to be the architect of Pakistan's nuclear program, was hailed in the local press as a Pakistani hero ‘who led Pakistan to become a nuclear power’ and was the ‘pride of the nation’.[19]

Political motives

5.19      Domestic pressure was also a factor influencing the Pakistani Government’s decision to conduct the tests. But unlike the situation in India, where the BJP government had a more active and deliberate role in grooming public opinion and in initiating the tests, in Pakistan the call for nuclear tests came very strongly from the people and in reaction to the Indian tests. The Pakistani Prime Minister felt that throughout his country there had been an expectation that the Government would conduct nuclear tests.[20] He explained to a journalist that the pressure within Pakistan was irresistible:

...It was mounting on the government every day, every hour. The outside world is not aware of the emotional feelings of the people of this region. I have been holding on and exercising utmost restraint. But we were disappointed that the world community really failed to take a strong reaction against India.[21]

5.20      Dr Yasmeen acknowledged that public pressure had a major role in prompting a reticent Prime Minister to agree to explode the nuclear devices. She asserted:

Both conservative and moderate elements supported and demanded that Pakistan should go nuclear. So strong was this demand that a small minority that objected to going nuclear was either silenced or sidelined.[22]

5.21      Clearly strong public support for Pakistan to demonstrate its own nuclear capability and the desire for national prestige influenced the Government’s decision to conduct nuclear tests. But the overriding concern for Pakistan was to establish some form of strategic balance in South Asia to ensure its own national security and to preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity.


5.22      The international community, aside from India, responded to the Pakistani nuclear tests by expressing disappointment with Pakistan’s action and by condemning the tests. As with the response to India’s tests, individual countries called for restraint and now urged both India and Pakistan to establish dialogue in order to work through their difficulties.


5.23      India used the Pakistani nuclear tests to justify its own position and brushed aside Pakistan’s claim that India posed a threat to Pakistan’s security. In an official statement the Ministry of External Affairs announced:

Pakistan’s nuclear tests have confirmed what has been known all along—that that country has been in possession of nuclear weapons. This event vindicates our assessment, and our policy as well as the measures that have been taken...the government have taken all steps necessary for safeguarding the nation’s security.[23]

5.24      It reiterated its offer to hold discussions with Pakistan on ‘a no-first-use agreement reflecting its desire to maintain stability in the region’. It also stated that the Indian Government remained fully prepared to deal firmly and effectively with any outside threat.[24]

The United States

5.25      On 28 May, the American President condemned Pakistan’s actions stating: ‘By failing to exercise restraint and responding to the Indian test, Pakistan lost a truly priceless opportunity to strengthen its own security, to improve its political standing in the eyes of the world.’ He went on to say:

And although Pakistan was not the first to test, two wrongs don’t make a right. I have made it clear to the leaders of Pakistan that we have no choice but to impose sanctions pursuant to the Glenn amendment as is required by law.[25]

5.26      He spelt out how India and Pakistan could take positive measures to resolve the situation by renouncing further tests, signing the CTBT, and by taking ‘decisive steps to reduce tensions in South Asia and reverse the dangerous arms race’. Two days later, on 30 May, the President directed the relevant agencies and instrumentalities to take the necessary actions to impose sanctions set out under the Arms Export Control Act.[26] It was predicted that the Glenn Amendment sanctions would cause more harm to Pakistan than to India, because Pakistan’s economy was weaker and more dependent on assistance from international financial institutions.[27]

5.27      The President also announced that he would continue to work with leaders throughout the international community to reduce tensions in South Asia and to preserve the global consensus on non-proliferation. [28]This message was firmly underlined by the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr Karl Inderfurth. He told the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs on 3 June:

Just as we responded to the Indian tests, the United States has moved swiftly to invoke sanctions and to condemn Pakistan’s reciprocal tests...In the short term...we are focussing our efforts on ways to prevent further provocative acts, to get both sides to end further tests, and to prevent related escalation such as missile testing and deployment. We are encouraging the immediate resumption of direct dialogue between India and Pakistan and are working to shore up the international non-proliferation regime.

He went on to state:

Now and for the foreseeable future, we will enforce sanctions firmly, correctly, and promptly, in full compliance with the Glenn Amendment and other legislative authorities. We will continue working to ensure the widest possible multilateral support for the steps we have taken. A vigorous enforcement regime will be necessary for India and Pakistan to perceive that their actions have seriously eroded their status in the international arena, will have a substantial negative impact on their economies, and that they have compromised, rather than enhanced their security. We will firmly reject any proposal for India or Pakistan to join the NPT as a nuclear weapon state. We do not believe that nations should be rewarded for behaviour that flies in the face of internationally accepted norms

Nevertheless, he also made plain that the US did not want to make ‘international pariahs’ out of India or Pakistan.[29] 

5.28      On that same day, the Under Secretary of State, Stuart Eizenstat, explained that the US administration sought to implement sanctions in a way that would do the least harm to US business interests and would not push India and Pakistan into ‘the behaviour of rogue regimes—countries considered outside the world community’.[30] He recalled Inderfurth’s statement that if India stands ‘outside the international community, we will get nowhere’.[31]

5.29      Clearly the US wanted to avoid isolating India and Pakistan from the international arena and wanted ‘to very much work with both India and Pakistan to help them resolve their differences and restore future hope, not fear, to the region’.[32]


5.30      On 29 May, Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs summoned Pakistan’s Charge d’Affairs ad interim to protest strongly against the nuclear tests. He urged Pakistan to cease immediately nuclear testing and the development of nuclear weapons. Japan took the following measures:

5.31      Japan also announced that in multilateral fora, such as the United Nations Security Council, it would actively deal with the issues so as to firmly maintain a non-proliferation regime and ensure peace in South Asia.[33] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged India and Pakistan not to commence a dangerous nuclear arms race and to join the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without condition. It explained that it was exploring measures that could be taken in collaboration with like-minded countries. The Ministry expected to be in touch with more countries concerned with discussing the possibility of joint appeals or actions.[34]

5.32      In addition, Japan proposed to host a meeting between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir issue.[35] It also raised the possibility of convening an Emergency Action Forum on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. The proposal was to draw prominent thinkers, former policy-makers and experts from throughout the world to discuss ideas about how the goals of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation might be achieved.[36] Foreign Minister Obuchi explained:

I believe that the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation needs to be addressed, not only through discussion among governments, but also by focusing wisdom from all possible realms on this subject. To this end, parallel with forthcoming deliberations among the relevant governments, the Government of Japan will join forces with the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Hiroshima Peace Institute to establish at the earliest possible date, an Emergency Action Forum on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in which around ten government and private sector experts from around the world will gather for approximately three meetings to be held in Japan with a view toward drafting concrete proposals within a year on ways to further promote nuclear disarmament and maintain and enhance the non-proliferation regime.[37]

5.33      On 6 June, Japan, together with Sweden, Costa Rica and Slovena, proposed a resolution to the United Nations which was passed unanimously. The resolution called on the international community to ‘maintain and consolidate the international regime on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as to cope with the threat against the preservation of peace and security in South Asia and other regions'. It urged India and Pakistan to resume dialogue on all outstanding issues and encouraged them to find mutually acceptable solutions to the deep seated causes of tensions between them.[38]

New Zealand

5.34      New Zealand expressed dismay and disappointment at Pakistan’s nuclear tests. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, explained that the New Zealand Government had called upon Pakistan to exercise restraint and that her government would be making known to Pakistan, as it did to India, that the tests were totally unacceptable. She announced that the New Zealand Government would be consulting with other governments about the steps that the international community could take to defuse ‘this potentially dangerous situation’.[39]

5.35      Indeed, New Zealand worked actively and closely with other countries to explore options on how to exert pressure on Pakistan and India to cease their nuclear weapons programs and to adhere to the CTBT and the Non Proliferation Treaty. It joined Australia in calling for a special emergency meeting of the Conference on Disarmament.


5.36      Although denouncing Pakistan’s nuclear tests, China was less condemnatory. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhu Bangzao, told a press gathering that China felt anxious and upset about the escalation of nuclear arms in the region. He observed that ‘the current nuclear arms race in South Asia was triggered off by India single-handed because Pakistan’s nuclear tests were conducted as a response to the Indian threat’. China strongly condemned India for its nuclear testing, but regretted that Pakistan had also carried out tests.[40]

5.37      The Chinese Foreign Ministry urged both countries to join unconditionally the CTBT and the NPT, and not to take any steps that may further endanger the situation in South Asia. China maintained:

The nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan have dealt a heavy blow to international non-proliferation efforts, and India and Pakistan should exercise restraint, stop further nuclear tests and abandon their nuclear weapons development programs.[41]

5.38      The spokesman from the Chinese Foreign Ministry noted that China had vowed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against countries or regions which do not have their own nuclear weapons. He stressed that China had ‘always opposed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their carriers, and therefore handles cautiously and controls in a responsible manner export of missiles’.[42]

United Kingdom

5.39      Following Pakistan’s nuclear tests, Mr Robin Cook issued a strong statement condemning the explosions. He explained that the British government was engaged in detailed discussions with the EU and other international partners on how ‘to impress on India and Pakistan the urgent need to adhere to the global non-proliferation regime; to conduct no further tests; and to begin a dialogue which will go to the heart of the differences between them’. He pointed out: ‘The nuclear tests have only increased tension, not enhanced security. It is now time patiently to rebuild confidence’.[43]

5.40      Mr Cook announced that he had decided to withdraw Britain’s High Commissioner in Islamabad for consultations. He noted that Britain had already cancelled a number of high level military visits between India and the UK and would be looking for a similar reduction in military cooperation with Pakistan. Further that the EU General Affairs Council had decided that member states would work to delay consideration of loans by the International Financial Institutions to India and asked the Commission to consider India’s continued eligibility for GSP trade preferences.[44]

5.41      Britain also took measures to strengthen its controls over the export of nuclear-related goods to India and Pakistan and to discourage all contacts by British nuclear scientists or nuclear personnel with Indians and Pakistanis, indicating that no visits by Indians or Pakistanis to British nuclear facilities would be permitted. [45]


5.42      Canada condemned the actions of Pakistan in detonating nuclear devices and urged both India and Pakistan to renounce their nuclear weapons programs and to sign the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and the CTBT. It recalled Canada’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, it discontinued non-humanitarian development assistance to Pakistan, banned military exports to Pakistan, deferred the planned visit to Canada by Pakistan’s Auditor General, and announced that it would seek deferment of planned International Financial Institution-funded projects in Pakistan.[46]

5.43      On 27 July, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Minister for International Co-operation Diane Marleau announced support for a project to promote disarmament and peaceful conflict resolution in India and Pakistan. The project was to be implemented by the Indian and Pakistani associates of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, in partnership with Peace Fund Canada, a Canadian non-government organisation. They were to organise an advocacy campaign to promote peaceful conflict resolution and disarmament, directed both at political leaders and across society throughout the sub-continent.[47]


5.44      Sweden also severely criticised Pakistan’s tests as a ‘dangerous step’. It urged Pakistan and India to accede without delay and unconditionally to the Non Proliferation Treaty and the CTBT.[48] Looking at the broader issue of nuclear proliferation, Sweden suggested that it was the ‘responsibility of the five nuclear weapons states to show the way by taking prompt and concrete action for intensified nuclear disarmament with the aim to achieve the complete abolition of these weapons.’ Sweden joined with other countries of similar views on the nuclear issue to bring the matter of nuclear non-proliferation before international bodies and was particularly active in urging the nuclear weapons states to begin practical steps toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. It was on the initiative of Sweden and Japan that the Security Council adopted a resolution on the recent nuclear tests. [49]

Sri Lanka

5.45      Sri Lanka noted the Pakistani nuclear tests with concern. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Sri Lanka believed that the entire international community should continue its efforts to achieve global nuclear disarmament leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.[50]

Saudi Arabia

5.46      After Pakistan detonated its nuclear devices, King Fahd called on India and Pakistan to exercise self-restraint. He took the opportunity to remark on the dual standard shown by the world community in exempting Israel from international inspection of its nuclear facilities. He wanted a comprehensive ban on proliferation of nuclear weapons and asked for the Middle East to be a nuclear-free zone. Although he appreciated the Pakistani stand regarding the preservation of its national security, Saudi Arabia nevertheless called on both parties to exercise self-control in order to make way for the welfare and prosperity of their people.[51]


5.47      By this time a core body of opinion had begun to form toward the nuclear tests and a common approach was taking shape in the international community. In coming together in multilateral fora, countries were able to articulate their views and work toward reaching an agreement on how to respond to the tests. At the very heart of the international response was deep dismay and disappointment at the tests. With one voice the international community urged countries to refrain from further testing and from the deployment of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles; and called for the adherence to the CTBT and Non Proliferation Treaty. There were, however, some important differences in emphasis.

The United Nations—initial response

5.48      On 28 May, the President of the General Assembly expressed his grave concern about Pakistan’s nuclear tests and appealed to both India and Pakistan to refrain from continued development of their nuclear weapons. He urged them to pledge their prompt and full cooperation with the international community in preventing any further aggravation of the situation.[52] The Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, deplored the tests conducted by India and Pakistan stating that they exacerbate tension in an already difficult relationship’.[53]

Conference on Disarmament

5.49      On 2 June, thirty-four countries spoke at the Conference on Disarmament. New Zealand made a statement in the name of 46 member states in which it expressed their alarm and serious concern about the nuclear tests. They ‘condemned all nuclear testing and considered such acts to be contrary to the international consensus which banned the testing of nuclear weapons and other explosive devices’. The statement called on India and Pakistan to: announce immediately a cessation to all further testing of those weapons; to renounce their nuclear weapons programmes; to sign and ratify, unconditionally the CTBT; to accede, without delay, to the Non Proliferation Treaty; to join all States in ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; and to engage in negotiations to conclude a ban on the production of fissile material.[54]

5.50      A few countries wanted a stronger reference made to disarmament. For example, Egypt stated that ‘the crux of the matter was the prohibition of possession of nuclear weapons and New Zealand’s statement this morning should have included that truth’. Mexico, which supported New Zealand’s statement, noted, however, that the statement did not sufficiently stress the need for multilateral and universal steps to establish confidence in the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. A number of countries, including Iran, Sweden, Brazil, Colombia and Syria referred directly to the need for the nuclear weapon states to honour their responsibility to implement nuclear disarmament and to take prompt action to bring about the elimination of nuclear weapons.[55]  Syria hoped that the latest events on the Indian sub-continent would be a stimulus to wake up nuclear-weapon states to their responsibility to strive for  nuclear disarmament.[56]

5.51       Some countries took the opportunity to touch on more specific regional concerns. Algeria, Iran, Syria and Egypt raised the issue of Israel’s nuclear capability. More specifically, Algeria referred to the need to break the silence on the nuclear regime of Israel. Iran spoke of the imperative for serious attention to be given to establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone as a step to comprehensive nuclear disarmament. It mentioned, in particular, the Middle East, ‘which was faced with the menace of Israeli nuclear capabilities’. Syria described Israel as a threat to the Arab region.[57]

5.52      Ireland, Switzerland, and China acknowledged that the Pakistani tests were a response to India’s actions.

United Nations - Security Council – P–5

5.53      Ministers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council met in Geneva on Thursday 4 June to consider ways to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan.[58] In a joint communique they condemned the tests and expressed deep concern about the danger to peace and stability in the region. They pledged to cooperate in their endeavours to reinvigorate the non-proliferation regime, to encourage a peaceful resolution between India and Pakistan, and to prevent a nuclear and missile arms race in South Asia.

5.54      The ministers agreed that India and Pakistan should stop all further tests, refrain from the weaponisation or deployment of nuclear weapons and of missiles capable of delivering such weapons and from the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. They believed that India and Pakistan should adhere to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty immediately and unconditionally, and that all countries, including India and Pakistan, should adhere to the NPT as it stands without any modifications.

5.55      In addressing actions that they could take as a group or individually, the ministers confirmed their respective policies to prevent the export of equipment, materials, or technology that could assist programs in India or Pakistan for nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles capable of delivering such weapons. They undertook to promote the peaceful resolution of differences and to assist in fostering confidence and security building measures. Without any preamble, they stated their determination to fulfil their commitments relating to nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT.[59]

United Nations—Security Council

5.56      The Security Council also expressed strong condemnation of the tests and called upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to take immediate steps to reduce and remove tensions between them.[60]

5.57      In an official statement on 29 May, the President of the Security Council announced that the Security Council strongly deplored Pakistan’s underground nuclear tests. It urged India and Pakistan to refrain from any further tests. On Saturday, 6 June 1998, on the initiative of Sweden and Japan, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1172 on India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear tests. This resolution followed closely the substance of the P-5 communique though expressed more stridently and which inter alia:

It reaffirmed its ‘full commitment to and the crucial importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty’.

5.58      The Council also expressed its:

Firm conviction that the international regime on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons should be maintained and consolidated and recalls that in accordance with the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons India or Pakistan cannot have the status of a nuclear-weapon state.

5.59      Resolution 1172 drew attention to the reference made by the P-5 to their responsibilities under Article VI of the NPT. It affirmed the need to continue to move with determination towards the full realisation and effective implementation of all the provisions of the NPT and welcomed the determination of the five nuclear weapon states to fulfil their commitments relating to nuclear disarmament under Article VI.[62]

5.60      India rejected outright the contents of Resolution 1172. The Indian Prime Minister described it as unhelpful in respect to the objectives it sought to address. He maintained that India was a responsible and committed member of the international community and that urging India to stop nuclear testing was redundant because India had already instituted a voluntary moratorium. He noted that India had made clear its readiness to engage in multilateral negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. Furthermore, he pointed out that his government was committed to initiatives that could open negotiations for a global convention for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.[63]

5.61      The Indian Prime Minister told parliament that a glaring lacuna in the resolution was its failure to recognise that non-proliferation had to be placed in a global context.  He pointed out that India’s tests were necessary because of the failure of a flawed non-proliferation regime, and proceeded to dismiss any notion that India had adversely affected regional or global security.

5.62      Pakistan also criticised the resolution which it argued was deficient in several aspects and the product of an approach devoid of realism. Pakistan depicted itself as a responsible regional citizen seeking balance or parity and made this point all the more strongly by pointing to the failure of the international community, notably the Security Council itself, to address Pakistan’s security concerns. The Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN made plain that India’s decision to weaponise and induct nuclear weapons compelled Pakistan to join the process of nuclearisation. He stressed that Pakistan was obliged to demonstrate its nuclear capability for self defence and to restore the strategic balance in South Asia. He told the Security Council:

We informed the Council about India’s provocative actions and unambiguous expression of intent to commit aggression against Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Council did not pay heed to the impending breach of peace.

Faced with these ominous developments resulting from India’s deliberate and calculated actions to alter the strategic equation, Pakistan was left with no choice but to exercise its nuclear option in its supreme national interest, to restore the strategic balance and to preserve peace...

We cannot be asked to give up the right to defend our country against any external threat emanating from conventional or weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan reserves the right to maintain the ability to deter aggression by conventional weapons or non-conventional means.[64]

5.63      Pakistan urged the Council to deal with the issue pragmatically. It advised the Council to adopt a ‘comprehensive approach to the issues of peace, security, confidence building, conventional imbalance, and conventional and nuclear arms control...whereby this Council and the international community could contribute to defusing the security crisis in South Asia’.

5.64      Pakistan drew special attention to the Council’s call for India and Pakistan to avoid threatening or provocative military activities and for them to resume dialogue that would promote peace and security and to find mutually acceptable solutions that would address the root cause of tension. Pakistan simply answered:

In short, the Council wants Pakistan and India to settle the issues bedevilling their relations by themselves.

If Pakistan and India could have sorted out these problems by themselves, today South Asia would not have been nuclearized.[65]

New Agenda

5.65      A number of countries used the world’s heightened awareness of nuclear proliferation to seek determined support toward a nuclear weapon free world. Sweden and Ireland, together with the Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia and South Africa who had been working ‘to re-kindle the will of the international community for nuclear disarmament’, formed a coalition known as the 'New Agenda Coalition’.[66] On 9 June they made representation in a joint ministerial declaration to the nuclear-weapons states and to India, Israel and Pakistan.

5.66      In this statement, they declared that they could no longer remain complacent at the reluctance of the nuclear weapons states and the three nuclear-weapons-capable states to make a commitment to the ‘speedy, final and total elimination of their nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons capability’. They urged the nuclear weapons states and the nuclear-weapons-capable states to take fundamental and requisite steps for the achievement of total elimination of nuclear weapons and to agree to start work immediately on the required negotiations and on the implementation of practical means. The ministers agreed that such measures would begin with those states that have the largest arsenals, but they stressed the importance that they be ‘joined in a seamless process by those with lesser arsenals at the appropriate juncture’.[67]

5.67      In looking at practical ways to begin this process they called on the nuclear weapons states to abandon present hair-trigger postures by proceeding to de-alerting and de-activating their weapons and also to removing non-strategic nuclear weapons from deployed sites. The eight countries believed that such measures would ‘create beneficial conditions for continued disarmament efforts and help prevent inadvertent, accidental or unauthorized launches’.[68]

5.68      As part of the process they stated that the three nuclear-weapons-capable states must ‘clearly and urgently reverse the pursuit of their respective nuclear weapons development or deployment and refrain from any actions which could undermine the efforts of the international community towards nuclear disarmament’. They urged them, and other states that had not yet done so, to adhere to the Non Proliferation Treaty and to sign the CTBT without delay and without conditions.[69]

5.69      According to a statement by the New Zealand Government the joint declaration:

builds on the finding of the International Court of Justice that there exists an obligation to pursue and conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. It also supports interim steps to reduce the nuclear threat, such as those recommended by the Canberra Commission.[70]

5.70      The joint ‘New Agenda’ declaration was read at a meeting of the Conference on Disarmament on 11 June and formed the basis of a resolution, ‘Towards a Nuclear Weapon-Free World: the Need for a New Agenda’, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 53rd session.


5.71      The G-8 Foreign Ministers in recalling the communique issued by the P-5 in Geneva on 4 June and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172 condemned the nuclear tests and endorsed the recommendations of the Security Council. They pledged to encourage India and Pakistan to find mutually acceptable solutions to their problems. The ministers expressed their belief that India and Pakistan must be made aware of the strength of the international community’s views on the recent tests. They stated:

Several among us have, on a unilateral basis, taken specific actions to underscore our strong concerns. All countries should act as they see fit to demonstrate their displeasure and address their concerns to India and Pakistan. We do not wish to punish the peoples of India and Pakistan as a result of actions by their governments, and we will therefore not oppose loans by international financial institutions to the two countries to meet basic human needs. We agree, however, to work for a postponement in consideration of other loans in the World Bank and other international financial institutions to India and Pakistan, and to any other country that will conduct nuclear tests. [71]

The European parliament

5.72      On 19 June the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan. It condemned the tests and expressed deep concern about the danger to peace. The parliament urged the Indian and Pakistani Governments to refrain from any further nuclear tests, it called on them to give an immediate commitment not to assemble or deploy nuclear weapons, to halt the development of ballistic missiles, and to start talks immediately to reduce tension in the region. In turning to its members, the parliament called on member states to prevent the export of equipment, materials and technology that could assist nuclear or ballistic missile programs in India or Pakistan and to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The parliament called on the five nuclear states to ‘interpret their Treaty obligations as an urgent commitment to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons’.[72]

ASEAN regional forum

5.73      The nuclear tests were also discussed during the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in July 1998. China briefly referred to the destabilising effect of the nuclear tests adding that they plunged South Asia into ‘a sudden wave of tension’.[73] Russia also mentioned the underground tests and the importance of India and Pakistan signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and NPT as well as resuming effective political dialogue between the two countries.[74] Mr Wolfgang Schussel on behalf of the European Union spoke along similar lines. The US raised the matter of the nuclear tests in greater detail. It acknowledged that both nations had legitimate security concerns but neither faced an imminent threat that ‘could justify the far greater danger we all now face’. It stated:

Our goal is not to point fingers but to point the way to stability, security and peace. We are urging India and Pakistan to accept the benchmarks set forth in the Geneva P-5 and London G-8 communiques and endorsed by the UN Security Council.[75]

5.74      The forum had difficulty in reconciling some conflicting approaches to the nuclear tests. The Chair of the ARF summed up the feelings of the Forum in his closing statement:

On the basis of the views expressed by the ARF Foreign Ministers, I, as Chairman, saw the need to strike a balance between the two views that emerged.

One view felt that the nuclear detonations should be condemned because, aside from violating the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the nuclear tests breached the nuclear barrier and created a situation that is highly dangerous not only to South Asia but to the entire world as well.

Therefore, it was deemed necessary to send an emphatic message so that what happened in South Asia, which raised the spectre of a nuclear arms race, will not be duplicated in other regions of the world.

The other view believed that the ARF should not be converted into a forum for denouncing ARF participants in no uncertain terms as this would affect the comfort level of the participants concerned.

Taking all these points into account, I deemed it appropriate that the contentious portion of paragraph 21 be worded as follows: ‘the Ministers, therefore, expressed grave concern and strongly deplored the recent nuclear tests in South Asia which exacerbated tension in the region and raised the spectre of a nuclear arms race.’[76]

Paragraph 21 reads in full:

The Ministers recalled that as early as 1995 the ARF put emphasis on the importance of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in promoting regional peace and security. They also noted that the ARF subsequently welcomed the overwhelming adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as an important step in prohibiting nuclear test explosions and stressed its determination to contribute to the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects. In this connection, the Ministers recalled the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172 issued on 6 June 1998. The Ministers, therefore, expressed grave concern over and strongly deplored the recent nuclear tests in South Asia, which exacerbated tension in the region and raised the spectre of a nuclear arms race. They called for the total cessation of such testing and urged the countries concerned to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay, conditions, or reservations. They asked the countries concerned to refrain from undertaking weaponization or deploying missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, and to prevent any transfer of nuclear weapon-related materials, technology and equipment to third countries. In the interest of peace and security in the region, the Ministers called on the countries concerned to resolve their dispute and security concerns through peaceful dialogue.[77]

5.75      Clearly within the ARF there were countries prepared to refer to but not endorse Security Council Resolution 1172. While some countries, in expressing their concern for the security situation in South Asia, were happy to name India and Pakistan, others were not.

5.76      The body of opinion that was forming toward India and the nuclear tests after 12 May firmed and took shape after Pakistan exploded its nuclear weapons. The P-5 statement of 4 June and the Security Council Resolution 1172 have become significant reference documents in debate about nuclear testing. Three main objectives became clear: to stem any escalation of the nuclear and missile race in South Asia; to defend and preserve the international non-proliferation regime; and finally to ease tensions between India and Pakistan.

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