Chapter eight - The way ahead
The Genie is Out of the Bottle
By conducting nuclear tests, India and Pakistan
have removed any remaining vestige of ambiguity about their possessing nuclear
The international community reacted to the
tests, rightly, with concern and indignation and called on India and Pakistan
to accept the nuclear arms control norms of the international community. In
response, India and Pakistan have refused to meet the terms of the
As India has remained apart from the
international community in relation to nuclear weapons for more than 20 years,
it is unlikely now to succumb to international pressure to eliminate its
nuclear weapon program and accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.
Pakistan’s nuclear program is more recent but it too has taken a stance similar
to that of India. Their recent nuclear tests received overwhelming popular
support in their countries. Given the role of domestic politics in the Indian
and Pakistani decision-making processes for the tests, any policy reversal is
unlikely in the foreseeable future unless the security concerns underpinning
the nuclear programs of both countries are addressed to their satisfaction.
Even the recent downfall of the BJP coalition Government is unlikely to alter
in any meaningful way public support for India’s nuclear weapon capability.
If India and Pakistan do not relent in the face
of international pressure and continue their longstanding positions, the
international community has to manage these changed strategic circumstances.
Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a
global move towards the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. The
Chemical Weapons Convention, with its stringent verification regime, is now in
force. Negotiations have been progressing to give the Biological Weapons
Convention a similarly stringent verification regime to ensure compliance with
the provisions of that treaty. Some moves have also been made to give effect
to Article VI of the NPT.
All states, except India, Pakistan, Israel, Cuba
and some island states, are members of the NPT. Brazil and Argentina, which
were moving towards acquiring a nuclear capability, decided to disband their
programs and sign the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Both are now non-nuclear weapon
states under the NPT. All members, except for the five designated nuclear
weapon states, have agreed, by becoming members of the treaty, not to possess
nuclear weapons. Even the five nuclear weapon states have agreed, under
Article VI, to move towards disarmament. In other words, most states do not
rely on nuclear weapons for their security. For those states that are
ostensibly covered by the American nuclear umbrella, this umbrella only applies
to defence against a nuclear attack.
Opinion on the value of nuclear weapons from the
point of view of national security is still divided. Possession of nuclear
weapons still has strong adherents. But the contrary view, that nuclear
deterrence is vastly over-rated, is growing. The latter position was enhanced
by the Canberra Commission, which made a persuasive case for eliminating
nuclear weapons and set out a framework for achieving that aim.
It is unfortunate that India and Pakistan
believe that nuclear weapons are necessary for their security when most states,
including Australia, take a contrary view and have demonstrated their
commitment to this view by joining the NPT as non-nuclear weapon states.
Progress on Non-proliferation and Disarmament in the Conference on
The nuclear tests came at a time when progress
on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament was at low ebb.
Since the United Nations General Assembly
adopted the CTBT in 1996, further progress on nuclear weapon arms control and
disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament had, until recently, stalled. This
had been due partly to dissension within the Conference on Disarmament about
nuclear weapon priorities - whether to proceed with a Fissile Materials Cut-off
Treaty (FMCT) or a nuclear disarmament convention - and partly to interest in
non-nuclear arms control issues, such as landmines.
Although the Conference on Disarmament had
reached consensus on a mandate to establish an ad hoc committee to negotiate an
FMCT as early as 23 March 1995, its failure to resolve differences among
members on competing priorities had brought the process to a standstill. A
number of member states, including India, wanted to negotiate a nuclear
disarmament convention rather than approach nuclear disarmament on an
incremental basis, an FMCT being one step in this process. On the other hand,
the nuclear weapon states have opposed a mandate for negotiations towards a
nuclear disarmament convention.
While the Conference on Disarmament remained
racked with disunity, nuclear weapon disarmament faded as a topical issue in
the public arena. Other arms control issues, such as landmines and a
verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention, took centre stage.
However, the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan stirred the world from
its complacency. Once again, nuclear weapons were brought back to the
forefront of international attention.
Indubitably, the nuclear tests have created a
headache for the international community. But amongst the gloom, there are
bright spots. India and Pakistan dropped their opposition to an FMCT in the
Conference on Disarmament and this breakthrough enabled an ad hoc committee to
be established on 11 August 1998 to begin negotiations towards a treaty. The
two states have also agreed in principle to support the CTBT. They still have
to ratify the treaty, as do many other states, but the announcement is a
welcome step towards the CTBT’s entry into force. The new conciliatory
approach by India and Pakistan to multilateral arms control and disarmament is
a breath of fresh air. There is renewed hope that further progress can now be
made towards global nuclear disarmament.
How then should the international community
respond to these changed circumstances and what should be Australia’s role?
No Rewards for Tests
DFAT/Defence made it clear in their submission
there should be no question of re-negotiating treaties and
re-designing institutions (particularly the NPT and the Security Council) to
give the appearance of recognition or reward for India[n] and Pakistani tests.
Nor, in the view of Australia, should there be any premature ‘deals’ with India
and Pakistan in the nuclear field until the pressure of international
opprobrium elicits from them a significant gesture of rapprochement towards the
nuclear non-proliferation regime. It is unlikely, however, that India with its
long-standing major power ambitions and its greater resilience to sanctions,
will be prepared to make compromises in the short to medium term. Inevitably,
Pakistan’s actions in this area will be conditioned by what India does.
Mr Griffin (DFAT) told the Committee:
It is very clear, from the soundings it is taking with a range
of international governments, that India is feeling a little isolated and is
looking for ways to regularise its situation vis-a-vis the international
community. I think that is clear. It is important not to do premature deals,
if you like, not to bring India in from the cold in such a way that you
undermine the very institutions that you are committed to protecting.
Basically, what India has to offer is what will be acceptable to the rest of
the world in terms of regularisation of their status vis-a-vis the regime, and
that is the stage of the game we are at at the moment.
India and Pakistan have always criticised the
NPT for being an inequitable two-tiered institution, which conferred special
advantages on the five nuclear weapon states. On the basis of their
long-standing and resolute opposition to membership of the NPT, it appears
unlikely that either would accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state in
the foreseeable future. It would be contrary to their long-term rhetoric,
which has always been advocacy for nuclear disarmament, not horizontal
As the NPT restricts the number of nuclear
weapon states to five, Indian and Pakistani accession to the treaty as nuclear
weapon states would require revision of the terms of the treaty. Any attempt
to increase the number of nuclear weapon states would not only put the treaty
into a position where it might unravel but, more importantly, would send the
wrong signals about nuclear non-proliferation. After all, the NPT was designed
to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and, ultimately, provide for
nuclear disarmament. If the number of nuclear weapon states under the NPT were
increased to accommodate India and Pakistan, it might also encourage other
states to develop a nuclear weapon capability, which would defeat the purpose
of the treaty.
Dr Roderic Pitty stressed that the only way to get
a solution to the increasing threat posed by nuclear weapons proliferation in
South Asia is to undertake a multilateral approach. - the problems are
fundamentally ones of international security at a broad multilateral level. He
underlined this point:
‘the only solutions are multilateral or at an international
level. It is because of the status of nuclear weapons internationally that the
Indian and Pakistani governments were able to derive the domestic political
benefit. If the weapons did not have some legitimacy internationally there
would have been no such domestic political benefit.’
Mr Hamish McDonald suggested that an immediate
step would be to begin to break down the notion that greatness in world affairs
is connected with possession of nuclear weapons. He suggested that one
initiative could be to have countries, such as Japan or Germany, as members of
the Security Council.
Dr Samuel Makinda proposed that all efforts
should be directed toward discrediting the belief that possession of nuclear weapons,
great nation power status and a permanent seat on the Security Council go
If India and Pakistan believe that a declaration
of possession of nuclear weapons confers additional status on the possessor,
they should be disabused of the idea. The fact that the five nuclear weapon
states happen to be the five members of the United Nations Security Council is
an accident of history. In the contemporary world, economic strength and the
contribution made to the international community are more important factors
than possession of nuclear weapons in determining the status of a state.
Germany is no less important in Europe than is France or the United Kingdom and
Japan is no less influential than China. Germany and Japan are often touted as
future permanent members of the United Nations Security Council because of
their leadership roles in the global economy. Neither depends on nuclear
weapons for their positions of influence. On the other hand, Indian
aspirations of permanent membership would have evaporated with the tests. The
Committee sees value, however, in attempting to channel India’s and Pakistan’s
energies toward economic integration as a means of protecting and promoting
their security interests and of earning international recognition.
A number of submitters mentioned India's failure
to obtain membership of APEC as contributing to India’s feeling of
international isolation and therefore becoming a possible factor in the
decision to conduct the nuclear tests. Nevertheless, the question of India’s
future membership of APEC is a matter for APEC itself and should not become a
bargaining point in the future of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapon
programs. The Committee comments on the question of India’s membership of APEC
in more detail in its report on APEC.
Reduction in Tensions between India and Pakistan
Mr Griffin told the Committee that, because of
the danger of inadvertent or accidental use of nuclear weapons, the most
challenging short-term task is to try to lower bilateral tensions and to remove
the flash-point between the two countries. He said that transparency between
the two sides needs to be improved because ‘the enemy of stability in these
circumstances is uncertainty about what the other side can do and what you need
to do to match and outstrip it. So confidence building measures, lowering of
the temperature, is an urgent task’.
The United States State Department spokesman, Mr
Jamie Rubin, while supporting the imposition of sanctions, said that the
question now was how to work with India and Pakistan to bring them back into
the mainstream of the international community. He said:
The goals are very clear - how can we and the international
community work with India and Pakistan to bring them back into the
international non-proliferation consensus, to reduce tensions between them and
address their security concerns at the same time.
Relations between India and Pakistan have
remained tense ever since Partition in 1947. This tension has resulted in
three wars between the two states. Two were fought over Kashmir. In the
third, India helped East Pakistan to separate from West Pakistan to become
The enmity and deep divisions that characterise
relations between India and Pakistan are not going to be resolved in the short
term. The bitterness and political and social differences are too entrenched
for that to happen. That is not to say, however, that some amelioration in the
relationship cannot be achieved, provided that both sides are prepared to work
towards that end. Kashmir is by no means the extent of the differences between
the two states but it is a key issue.
Apart from a direct security threat between the
two countries, Kashmir is a festering sore. Pakistan’s support for the Muslim
insurgency in Kashmir has served to keep tensions high and to make it difficult
to develop trust between the two sides. This has been accentuated over the last
decade with continual armed conflict between the two sides along the Line of
Control on the Siachen Glacier. In late May and June 1999, heavily armed
Muslim insurgents took up positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control
leading to heavy fighting with Indian defence forces. High-level diplomatic
efforts to end the fighting broke down without achieving anything. Such
incursions only worsen relations between the two states and make a settlement
more difficult to achieve.
Until the long-term and seemingly intractable
dispute over the future of Kashmir is resolved and relations between the two
sides achieves some measure of normalcy, Pakistan is unlikely to feel secure
enough to dispense with its nuclear force.
Unfortunately, India and Pakistan cannot even
agree on the modalities for negotiating a settlement. India maintains that the
dispute is a bilateral issue and has refused to accept any attempt at mediation
by third parties, including the United Nations. Pakistan, on the other hand,
has sought United Nations involvement in the negotiations. This basic
disagreement epitomises the difficulties of reconciling differences between the
two sides, especially when both territorial and religious issues are involved.
The BJP’s advocacy of Hindu nationalism, which is a departure from the secular
approach taken by previous Indian Governments, has created a climate in India
that makes a settlement over the largely Muslim populated Kashmir more
difficult to achieve. Although the BJP government fell recently, it will be
some time before a new government is elected and its policies towards Kashmir
The hardened attitudes on both sides should not
deter the international community from at least encouraging them to begin
taking steps that might reduce tensions. A settlement was finally achieved in
Northern Ireland in 1998 after decades of violence and bitterness.
An Independent Task Force, which was
co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations
in the United States, considered this long-running dispute and reported:
Kashmir remains the most dangerous point of contention between India
and Pakistan. It is the issue with the greatest potential to trigger a
conventional or even nuclear war. That said, the dispute is not ripe for final
resolution. It is not even ripe for mediation by the United States or anyone
else. Consistent with these realities, diplomacy aimed at now resolving the
permanent political status of Kashmir is bound to fail.
Instead, using public and private diplomacy, the United States
should work to encourage India and Pakistan to:
- refrain from provocative public rhetoric;
- convene bilateral talks (as well as three-way talks involving
Delhi, Islamabad, and those representatives of the inhabitants of Kashmir who
are willing to eschew violence) devoted to discussing ways of calming the
situation in Kashmir;
- accept an increase in the number of international observers on
both sides of the Line of Control to monitor troop dispositions and to
discourage any armed support for militants; and
- accept a thinning of Indian and Pakistani forces along the Line
- In addition, India should be urged to:
- grant increased political and economic autonomy to the
inhabitants of Kashmir;
- reduce the size of its forces stationed in Kashmir that carry out
policing functions: and
- accept an increase in the number of international observers
monitoring human rights conditions within Kashmir.
- At the same time, Pakistan should be urged to:
- eschew any use of military force in or near Kashmir;
- provide no material support to insurgents operating in Kashmir;
- deny safe haven to any Kashmiri insurgent group. Pakistan’s
willingness to forswear any and all support for armed resistance against India
is likely to be a condition for India’s taking the steps suggested above.
The BJP’s Hindu nationalist rhetoric, the
conduct of the nuclear tests and the popular support for those tests do not
provide a climate conducive to resolving such an emotional issue, especially
one which has been the bone of contention between the two states ever since
Partition more than 50 years ago. The inflammation of popular sentiments on
both sides of the divide in 1998–99 has made it even more difficult to effect a
short-term improvement in the situation let alone long-term solutions.
Although foreign minister talks between the two
states were resumed in October 1998 on this issue, there is yet no indication
of India and Pakistan coming to terms over Kashmir. Public utterances since the
meeting offer no expectation of an early breakthrough in the widely divergent
positions taken by the two sides. Talks in June 1999 between the two sides on
the incursion by Muslim insurgents in Indian Kashmir broke down.
The proposals put forward by the Independent
Task Force are sensible measures that could lessen tension both in Kashmir and
more widely between the two states. Some of these measures could be adopted in
the short term but others would take time to garner sufficient domestic support
for their adoption. In any event, trust and confidence take time to be
established, especially after more than 50 years of enmity. The international
community must give both sides every encouragement to negotiate first a
ceasefire and then a long-term settlement of their disputes, particularly over
Kashmir. Indian rejection of mediation should not deter the international
community from continuing to offer their good offices to help bring normalcy to
the region. Although it is a bilateral dispute, any major conflict, especially
if nuclear weapons were used, would have a detrimental effect on surrounding
countries as well as on India and Pakistan themselves. Those other countries
have, therefore, an interest in the amelioration in relations between India and
Pakistan and a lessening of the risks of use of nuclear weapons.
Mr Christopher Snedden argued that the Kashmiri
conflict must be resolved and that ‘Australia has a significant opportunity to
take an initiative which positively encourages India and Pakistan to resolve
the Kashmir issue in a way that is acceptable to the peoples of Kashmir’.
The Australian Council for Overseas Aid urged
the Australian Government to take steps to assist India and Pakistan to settle
the conflict over Kashmir and to build confidence between India and China.
DFAT pointed out that one of the most
challenging immediate tasks is to lower the bilateral tensions between the two
countries. It stressed the importance for India and Pakistan to establish a
substantial meaningful bilateral dialogue.
Mr Gareth Evans submitted that:
Former chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Ramdas, succinctly
identified the real interests of India and Pakistan at stake in all of this
when he said recently: ‘It should be possible to recognise that we are not each
other’s enemies, but that poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease of the
millions of our peoples is the real enemy. We must agree to cut down our
respective defence budgets to enable us to divert funds for urgently needed
Australia should continue to urge India and
Pakistan to at least arrange a ceasefire along the Line of control and in
Kashmir and then to begin negotiations on a long-term settlement of this
long-running simmering dispute that has twice resulted in war between the two
When tensions run high, there is always the
possibility of an incident occurring that might lead to an accidental, inadvertent
or miscalculated use of nuclear weapons. The lessening of tensions is
therefore a key objective for the international community. High tensions
combined with relatively unsophisticated command and control systems,
vulnerable nuclear capabilities and short distances to potential targets do not
provide any margin for error. Until the political climate between the two
sides improves, it is important for measures to be taken to avoid the
possibility of inadvertent use.
Lessening the risk of inadvertent
There are both immediate and longer-term
measures that can be taken to minimise the risk of accidental or inadvertent
use of nuclear weapons. These issues were addressed at some length at a
Dialogue on Security and Disarmament in the Asia Pacific organised by the
National Centre for South Asian Studies and the Monash Asia Institute in
Melbourne in late August 1998, which included attendance by high-level academic
advisers from South Asian countries. A communique was issued at the end of the
Dialogue which, in part, stated:
Our conclusions have stressed the urgency to encourage those
processes which will lead us towards minimising the risks of nuclear,
conventional and other forms of conflict in the coming decades. We call on all
governments and the policy making communities to commit themselves to the
ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons. Specifically we urge that the
following steps be taken to minimise the risk of nuclear accidents and
- treat all nuclear weapon states, including India and Pakistan,
equally so that effective arms control measures can be introduced more quickly;
- take nuclear forces off alert;
- remove warheads from delivery vehicles;
- appeal to all countries, including India and Pakistan, to sign
and ratify the CTBT;
- support the decision by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
to commence negotiations on a ‘cut-off’ treaty to ban the production of fissile
material for nuclear weapons purposes;
- give serious and urgent consideration to ways of curbing missile
development, transfers and use;
- consider the Report of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination
of Nuclear Weapons;
- undertake a range of confidence-building measures, dialogues and
restraint to prevent crises and conflict and encourage the resolution of disputes
and the alleviations of tensions;
- take concrete steps to safeguard the security of non-nuclear
In discussions with the Indian and Pakistani
Governments, the international community should stress the importance of
keeping their nuclear weapons in a non-alert state and not have them deployed.
Nuclear warheads should also be kept separate from delivery vehicles. These
measures would go along way to minimise the accidental or inadvertent use of
In addition to the above measures, both India
and Pakistan should re-assert commitments not to strike at each other’s nuclear
facilities. During the period of tests, the Pakistani armed forces were put on
alert putatively in response to intelligence reports indicating an Indian threat
against their nuclear facilities. The threat was denied by the Indian
Government but lack of confidence and transparency between the two sides made
it difficult to determine the credibility of the threat. The fact that this
incident happened indicates the lack of trust between the two sides and the
difficulty ahead of them in easing tension and building confidence and trust.
The Indian Government has offered a no first
strike agreement between the two sides but the Pakistani Government has not
reciprocated. Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program was established not only to
deter an Indian nuclear attack but also an invasion of Pakistani territory by
Indian conventional forces, which have always been stronger than the Pakistani
armed forces. Pakistan’s reluctance to agree to a no first strike is
consistent with a weaker state seeking not to give away its ultimate deterrent
against a stronger adversary.
Dr Hanson held out some hope ‘that a no first
use pledge is worth pursuing and that that is something that will take some of
the pressure off the very volatile situation that we see in the subcontinent at
Although a no first strike agreement between
India and Pakistan is a desirable goal, the Committee is not sanguine that
Pakistan would agree to enter into such an arrangement. A no first strike
agreement, which includes both nuclear and conventional forces, might
eventually be more acceptable to Pakistan. With all negative assurances, which
are based on both sides acting honourably, there has to be mutual confidence in
the assurances given. That will obviously take some time to achieve. The
international community should encourage India and Pakistan to move towards a
political climate conducive to the development of a no first strike agreement
for both nuclear and conventional forces.
As part of the international community,
Australia should press India and Pakistan to take measures that will reduce the
likelihood of accidental, inadvertent or miscalculated use of nuclear weapons.
Role of China
Although India’s nuclear weapon program was
instigated as a result of perceived threats from China following their 1962
border war and the 1964 Chinese nuclear tests, relations between the world’s
two most populous nations are far less tense than those between India and
Pakistan. Until recently, relations between the India and China had been
improving, notwithstanding Indian perceptions of a Chinese encirclement of
India and of Chinese assistance with Pakistan’s nuclear, missile and
conventional weapon programs. The Indian Defence Minister’s anti-Chinese
rhetoric prior to the tests and the tests themselves have not provoked any
particular reaction from China. The state of the bilateral relationship does
not therefore give rise to any particular concerns about possible armed
conflict between them.
DFAT/Defence noted that given India’s desire to
rival China and the strength of China’s traditional ties with Pakistan, China
is a critical factor in assisting in the reduction of tensions in South Asia.
As two-way trade between India and China was estimated at US$ 1.8 billion in
1996-97, ‘there is no fundamental economic imperative to set aside political
difficulties’. The two departments went on to say that:
Recent statements by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee expressing a
wish for a return to the previously positive trend in Sino-Indian relations are
encouraging. China, for its part, appears to be waiting for further, more
significant steps from India before it would be willing to resume more positive
Dr Malik argued that the UN Security Council and
G-8 resolutions calling for an end to India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons
programs will lead nowhere because they do not address the underlying cause of
nuclear proliferation - the China-India rivalry. He argued that Pakistan's fear
of India and India's security concerns regarding China coupled with its desire
to be ranked strategically with China, make it unlikely that either will ever
renounce its nuclear weapons..
He told the Committee:
If a non-proliferation regime does not enhance security, if it
undermines security, then it is very difficult to get nation states to comply
with the non-proliferation regime. 
The South Asian nuclear weapon problem is, after
all, a tripartite affair. China is inextricably linked in the South Asian
nuclear equation. Although the Indian-Pakistani relationship is the more
volatile and provides the higher risk of a nuclear exchange, any long-term
resolution of the problem would have to include China.
India established its nuclear weapon program
because it believed that possession of a nuclear weapon capability would
enhance its security and deter any future Chinese aggression. Although it
could not match the size and sophistication of the Chinese nuclear weapon capability,
India considered that by just having a nuclear weapon capability would be a
India believes it has as much right as China to
possess nuclear weapons. It argues that if China needs nuclear weapons for its
security, India should not be denied the same capacity to defend itself. India
is not a party to the NPT and is therefore not bound by the terms of the
treaty. Although it has arguably a moral responsibility to join the
international community in its non-proliferation and disarmament efforts under
the NPT, it is not obliged by any international law to rid itself of its
nuclear weapon capability.
The nub of the problem is that while India
continues to perceive China as a threat, it is unlikely to forego its nuclear
weapon program. Pakistan has adopted the same position in relation to India.
Hence the need to take into account the security needs of all three countries
in resolving the nuclear issue in South Asia.
Mr Gareth Evans submitted that India and
Pakistan should be engaged in dialogue with China and other major security
At the wider regional level, a serious effort now needs to be
made to engage India and Pakistan in a dialogue – especially with China, but
desirably with all the major security players in Asia – so that underlying
strategic anxieties can begin to be seriously addressed. New frameworks could
be created for this purpose, for example the US-initiated mechanism proposed by
Senator Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
whereby India would be invited to sit at a table with China, Japan, Russia and
the US. But a ready-made option also exists with the ASEAN Regional Forum, the
security dialogue forum embracing all the significant Asia pacific security
players: India, albeit not yet Pakistan, recently became a full member of ARF.
India in particular has been notoriously reluctant – primarily because of its
preoccupation with Kashmir – to multilateralise any security issue in which it
has had an interest, but it needs to start thinking of dialogue processes of
this kind as opportunities rather than constraints.
The Australian Government has, as have many
other governments, registered displeasure at the actions of the two South Asian
governments through a variety of diplomatic and other measures. The point has
been well made. However, it is now time for serious discussions to be held on
the future of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs and the political and
military tensions which continue to sour relations in South Asia and place in
jeopardy the security of the region.
Australia’s relationships with India and
Pakistan have been cordial but not particularly close, with most emphasis
placed on trade and investment. Business and trade links have increased in
recent years, supported by the Australian Government’s New Horizons trade
promotion in India in 1996 and the 1997 Year of South Asia promotion.
Economic ties have been more productive than
have political relations between the two countries. India was displeased, to
say the least, with Australia’s resourceful bypassing of the Indian veto in the
Conference on Disarmament to enable the United Nations General Assembly to
endorse the CTBT and its lack of support for India’s application for membership
of APEC. Nevertheless, Australia has played significant roles in multilateral
economic and security matters over the last decade, and it should use that
experience in discussions with India and Pakistan to try to achieve some
reduction in tensions in South Asia and avert a security crisis. Australia may
not necessarily exert much influence over India and Pakistan in relation to the
future of their nuclear weapon programs but that is not a valid reason for not
trying to achieve these goals.
Reflecting on Australia’s past relations with
India, Professor Kenneth McPherson argued that without a full understanding of
the Indian position, particularly in Australia, ‘we are less able to deal with
the consequences and to perhaps change future developments’. He argued that
Australia must incorporate India and Pakistan in its pattern of dialogue much
more effectively; that it has been too intermittent and inconsistent. ‘I think
at the moment we are in a position where our ability to dialogue with both
Pakistan and India has been severely curtailed.’
It is in the interests of both Australia and
India and Pakistan to develop a rapport as Indian Ocean littoral partners and
as countries that share many similar interests. Lack of a prime ministerial
visit by either side since Prime Minister Hawke visited India reflects the
state of relations between Australia and South Asia. Once relations between
Australia and India and Pakistan have returned to normal, consideration should
be given to a Head of Government visit, which could give greater impetus to the
development of relations between Australia and South Asia.
Australia should also continue to liaise with
other states, which have more influence with India and Pakistan, to try to
persuade the two countries to take measures to reduce tensions between them and
to avoid the possible accidental or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons.
Australia and the international community should
continue to urge India and Pakistan to sign and ratify the CTBT. The treaty
cannot enter into force until 44 specified states, including India and
Pakistan, have ratified it. Both countries have indicated that they support
the CTBT in principle but the treaty cannot become operational until they and
the other requisite states ratify it. Although the treaty does not ban all
experiments relating to nuclear weapons, its entry into force would be another
step towards the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament.
Any feeling of isolation on the part of India
before the nuclear tests must be attributed, at least partly, to India itself.
Until recent years, the Indian Government restricted foreign investment in its
economy, thereby minimising business links between India and the rest of the
world. For many years, it was an ally of the USSR, thereby putting itself at
arms length from the West. The demise and disintegration of the Soviet Union
left India more exposed. Greater integration with the international community
through expansion of trade and business and through greater people to people
contact will help India and Pakistan to feel less isolated and exposed.
Indian Ocean Rim Association for
The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional
Co-operation (IOR-ARC) seeks to ‘build and expand understanding and mutually
beneficial cooperation through a consensus-based evolutionary and non-intrusive
approach’. Although a fledgling organisation, it offers potential for greater
economic and commercial cooperation for its members including India. It also
provides an ideal forum for India and Australia, as well as other Indian Ocean
rim countries, such as South Africa, to work towards improving relations and to
build a peaceful and constructive environment in which all members can enjoy
Mr Brent Davis of the Australian Chamber of
Commerce and Industry (ACCI) told the Committee that Australia has spent a lot
of effort with India building up the Indian Ocean regional equivalent to APEC. The ACCI submitted that:
successive Australian Governments and the ACCI have been working
patiently to develop a greater sense of regional co-operation and integration
in the Indian Ocean. This effort has come to fruition with the formation of
the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation and Development (IORARC).
The IORARC brings together a good number of countries from
around the Indian Ocean (including Australia and India, and prospectively
Pakistan) to examine means for closer working relations across a range of
activities of interest to business and government.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
agreed that the IOR-ARC provides a very useful vehicle for Australia-India
The IOR-ARC is restricted to enhancement of economic interaction and
co-operation and is not a forum for pursuing security issues. However,
development of economic co-operation would strengthen the bilateral
relationship, which would facilitate bilateral security discussions in other
As a means to help India become part of a community seeking to
build an environment conducive to economic prosperity, the Committee recommends
that the Australian Government take a more active role to invigorate the Indian
Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation and Development.
Lack of sound understanding of
If Australia were to develop closer relations
with South Asian countries, it needs to have a pool of people who have
knowledge and expertise in South Asian languages, culture, economic affairs
and, particularly, foreign affairs and security issues.
Associate Professor Vicziany, Director of the
National Centre for South Asian Studies, Monash University, pointed out that
Australia's understanding of Indian needs and sensitivities has been poor
- We have too few experts who properly understand the logic behind
India's defence and foreign policies;
- Australian governments, companies and journalists are reasonably
well informed about matters of Indian trade, economy and society but there is
little understanding of the security issues in South Asia;
- Australian foreign policy concerns have focussed on the East
Asian region and little attention has been paid to South Asia - moreover, the
exclusion of India from regional forums such as APEC have meant that at the
highest levels of government, there has been little opportunity for Australia
to come to an understanding of how India herself views East Asian countries
such as China and Korea.
Australia has focussed its attention on East
Asia to a much greater extent than South Asia in relation to business and
trade, security issues, tourism, education and in most other areas. Following
an inquiry by this Committee in 1989, the Australian Government did set up the
Australia–India Council and increased business and official contacts with
India. Australian commercial interests in India have grown since India lifted
strict rules against foreign investment but is still very low compared with
Australian trade and investment in East Asia. This lack of focus has meant
that few people in government, academia or in the business world have developed
expertise in South Asian affairs. It has, in turn, also meant that less
contact takes place between Australia and South Asia, keeping the profile of
that region low in Australia and the profile of Australia low in South Asia,
except, of course, in relation to cricket.
The Committee recommends that resources be
allocated to increasing the pool of people in Australia with knowledge and
expertise in South Asian culture, economic affairs and, particularly, foreign
affairs and security issues.
Funding of research centres
In a related area, Dr Cohen criticised the
meagre resources directed toward peace studies in Australia. He noted that it
‘is extraordinary in an advanced, relatively wealthy and civilised country that
we can spend $10 billion dollars or more a year on so-called defence and that
we can spend so little, an infinitesimal amount of money, on peace studies. One
of the first acts that this current government did...was to shut down the defence
peace research institute in Canberra...or certainly to downsize it.’
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
The decision to reduce funding to the Peace Research Centre at
the Australian National University was not an indication of any change in the
priority the Government accords to arms control issues. These remain a central
component of the Government’s foreign policy objectives. DFAT funding of the
Peace Research Centre was always intended as seed funding and it had made clear
to the Centre and the University that the Government expected them to secure
alternative longer-term funding arrangements.
Consistent with this approach and in the interests of helping to
reduce the national budget deficit, DFAT funding for the Centre was reduced
from July 1997, and was designed to cover the salary of the Director until
termination of his contract with the University on 30 June 2002. This
arrangement was superseded, and the Centre closed by the University, when the
then Director resigned in early 1998 to take another job.
Australia has been in the forefront of
international moves aimed at global disarmament of weapons of mass destruction,
arguing that it is in our own interests for all such weapons to be eliminated.
A lot of time, effort and expense has been devoted to fulfilling this goal.
Yet, intellectual studies in academia on these issues have been made more
difficult because of the closure of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian
National University through departmental funding cuts. The Committee believes
this is a short-sighted view given the importance attached to elimination of
weapons of mass destruction by the Government in the interests of Australia’s
The Committee recommends that consideration should be
given to the establishment of a Peace Research Centre to rebuild Australia’s
academic expertise in regional security, peace and disarmament.
South Asian naivety about nuclear
Mr Christopher Snedden and Dr Samina Yasmeen
also raised the problem of naivety within India and Pakistan about the meaning
of nuclear weapons.
Dr Yasmeen told the Committee that:
people in Pakistan and India have very little knowledge of what
nuclear weapons really mean. They have this romantic idea that it is good to
go nuclear but little concept of the realities of going nuclear and what it
involves in terms of having a strategic doctrine and command and control
systems and the effect of a nuclear war not being known. Because of that the
antinuclear movement has been slightly stronger in India, but basically weak
when you compare the movement in India and Pakistan with the rest of the
international antinuclear movements.
Dr Yasmeen suggested that the Australian
Government, the people, academics and other groups establish an information
inflow into South Asia on the horror and destructiveness of a nuclear conflict.
Global Nuclear Disarmament
As mentioned earlier, India has remained outside
of the framework of the NPT for more than 20 years and Pakistan for a lesser
but still significant period of time. India has made it clear that it will not
renounce its nuclear weapon program while China maintains its nuclear arsenal.
Pakistan has adopted the same position in relation to India. They are unlikely
to ‘come in from the cold’ unilaterally to support a treaty which they have
regarded as insupportable in its current inequitable form. The slowness with
which nuclear weapon disarmament is happening has provided India and Pakistan
with a cogent argument for staying outside of the NPT.
Some see the Indian and Pakistani tests as ‘a
symptom of the failure of the international community to commit itself fully to
control the spread of nuclear weapons - and to work toward substantial
reductions in the numbers of these weapons. No nuclear state is moving
significantly toward nuclear disarmament’.
Mr McDonald pointed out that the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty does not preclude what are known as sub-critical tests, which
he believes ‘contradicts the whole thrust of nuclear non-proliferation and
gives rise to justifiable charges of hypocrisy by the nuclear threshold
Mr Doherty also argued that the United States is ‘the powerhouse pushing the
development of nuclear weapons. It is not in any way pushing disarmament or
non-proliferation. It has broken the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by
sub-critical testing and cyber-testing’.
Dr Hanson told the Committee that there exists
‘a widespread and growing view that the existing nuclear weapon states are not
moving towards serious nuclear disarmament and appear unlikely to relinquish
their own nuclear capacities. This is despite pledges from these states to
reduce and eliminate their own arsenals’.
She pointed out that China, France and Britain have indicated that if the two
major nuclear powers move towards serious reduction, they will follow suit. She
stressed that the initiative has to come from the United States and Russia;
that they are ‘the circuit breakers’.
At the time the NPT was negotiated, five states
had declared their nuclear weapon capability but many others were nuclear
weapon capable, threshold states or interested in acquiring nuclear weapons.
There was a widespread view that proliferation would increase the risk of
accidental, inadvertent or miscalculated use of nuclear weapons as well as the
risk of such weapons or fissile material getting into the hands of terrorists
or rogue states. The NPT was designed to reduce those risks by stemming
proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Australia delayed acceding to the NPT for two
years, as it wanted to keep its nuclear options open. But, in the end, it
decided to throw its support behind the NPT and, later, other non-proliferation
measures as a means of providing national and regional security. It has
pursued vigorously the non-proliferation approach, often taking the lead in
non-proliferation treaty negotiations and in measures to restrict the
development of weapons of mass destruction. This policy has been largely
successful, with only three nuclear capable states now outside the NPT.
The non-nuclear weapon states agreed to waive
their rights to acquire nuclear weapons on the basis that the nuclear weapon
states undertook in good faith to move towards disarmament. Under Article VI
of the NPT, the nuclear weapon states are already legally obliged to eliminate
their nuclear weapons. The text of Article VI provides that:
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue
negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the
nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty
on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international
No serious moves towards disarmament were
expected during the Cold War, but once those constraints were removed, it was
expected that the nuclear weapon states would keep faith with their commitments
under the NPT. Although some movement towards disarmament has been recorded
since the end of the Cold War, it has not been enough to satisfy many
non-nuclear weapon states. This perceived recalcitrance on the part of the
nuclear weapon states has given rise to irritation and frustration, especially
as the arsenals of the United States and Russia are considerably larger than
that which are needed for their security purposes under any circumstances.
There is also a growing concern about the security of Russia’s nuclear weapons
and fissile material.
Some states believe that at least some of the
nuclear weapon states are still upgrading their nuclear weapons rather than eliminating
them. None of the nuclear weapon state governments has indicated that nuclear
weapons will not remain an integral part of their defence force structures for
the foreseeable future and nor has any made any effort to prepare the public
for complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.
Many authorities and commentators were concerned
about the effect that either the North Korean threat to withdraw from the NPT
or the recent Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests would have on the future of
the NPT. The more negative commentators forecast the degradation or even
demise of the NPT. In the end, North Korea was persuaded not to leave the NPT
and the recent nuclear tests have not undermined in any measurable way the
effectiveness of the NPT.
DFAT/Defence submitted that:
Although there are no current indications of its happening, the
tests by India and Pakistan have the potential to tempt some non-nuclear weapon
states party to the NPT towards nuclear ‘breakout’ – or, in the case of the
five nuclear weapon states, to re-think their commitment to the CTBT.
Additionally, a weakening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime could
complicate efforts to maintain and strengthen the other weapons of mass
destruction...control regimes and arrangements.
It is possible that the tests could weaken the
NPT. The Committee believes, however, that the greatest danger to the NPT is
not from these incidents but from the perceived unwillingness of the nuclear
weapon states to fulfil their obligations under Article VI. The indefinite
extension of the NPT was not a foregone conclusion at the NPTREC in 1975.
There was significant opposition to indefinite extension from non-nuclear
weapon states, which were unhappy with progress made by the nuclear weapon
states towards adherence to Article VI. In simple terms, they questioned why
should five states continue to possess nuclear weapons contrary to their
undertakings and obligations under the NPT while all the remaining states were
not allowed to acquire them. They also questioned why it was necessary for
those five states to depend on nuclear weapons for their security when other
states were denied that option.
The Committee understands that Article VI
adherence has been a significant and divisive issue in the annual meetings of the
Preparatory Commission for the 2000 NPT Review Conference. It will almost
certainly be a key issue in that Conference. The Indian and Pakistani tests
have also played their part in putting the spotlight on this issue.
The danger is that perceived lack of progress by
the nuclear weapon states to continue the process of disarmament may lead to
some questioning about the future of the Treaty. The non-nuclear weapon states
that negotiated the Treaty accepted the two-tier system on the basis that the
five nuclear weapon states would honour their commitment enshrined in Article
VI to eliminate their nuclear weapons.
United States and Russian
The United States and Russia did begin staged
reductions of their nuclear arsenals with the negotiation and ratification of
START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) but START II, although concluded, has
not been ratified by the Russian Duma. The Duma has, for a long time, refused
to support this treaty. Negotiations towards START III are awaiting ratification
of START II.
The stalled ratification process in the Russian
Duma points to another complexity in the nuclear disarmament debate, as in
other areas of arms control and disarmament. Even if the United States
Administration and the Russian Government are convinced that a disarmament
process is in the interests of both countries, there is no guarantee that their
legislatures support it. Both governments face hostile legislatures, which are
ideologically opposed to many of the views of their governments. Since the end
of the Cold War and the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower,
Russia has been having second thoughts about nuclear disarmament in view of the
superiority of NATO conventional forces. In the United States, public opinion is
still supportive of the nuclear deterrent as a fundamental element of their
security. This view is also reflected in the Republican-dominated Congress.
Until the people and legislatures in the United States and Russia change their
views about the role of nuclear weapons, there will be difficulty in securing
ratification of disarmament measures that might be supported by their
governments. The road to nuclear disarmament is strewn with obstacles and
progress along it will be made only with determination. But the process must
continue, otherwise the patience of the non-nuclear weapon states will wear
thin, putting at risk 28 years of effort to prevent proliferation of nuclear
At Helsinki in March 1997, President Clinton and
President Yeltsin issued a Joint Statement on Parameters on Future Reductions
in Nuclear Forces. They ‘underscored the importance of prompt ratification of
the START II Treaty by the State Duma of the Russian Federation and reached an
understanding to begin negotiations on START III immediately once START II
enters into force’. They went on to say they had:
also reached an understanding that START III will establish by
December 31, 2007 a ceiling of 2,000-2,500 strategic nuclear weapons for each
of the parties, representing a 30-45 percent reduction in the number of total
deployed strategic warheads permitted under START II and more than a 65 percent
reduction in the number of total deployed strategic warheads permitted under
Despite the agreement reached by the two presidents,
and their acknowledgement of the need to ratify START II as soon as possible,
the Russian Duma has still not ratified the treaty, now six years since its
signing in 1993. A number of factors have contributed to this delay. Some are
domestic, relating to the hostility between the Russian Government and the
communist and nationalist dominated Duma. Others include the acknowledged
inferiority of Russian conventional forces compared with those of the West and
the enlargement of NATO, both of which are perceived as threats to Russian
security. The Russians objected to missile attacks against Iraq and proposed
unspecified changes to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The NATO bombing of
the Bosnian Serbs and, more recently Serbia, against the strong objections of
Russia, has served to provide another excuse for the Duma to withhold
ratification of the treaty. So, too, have anomalies within the START II
Treaty, which are disadvantageous to Russia. On the other hand, there is the
incentive of reducing the heavy cost of maintaining the large nuclear arsenal,
once the total holding is reduced in line with the treaty. However, the
prospect of ratification will diminish the closer its gets to the 2000
presidential and parliamentary elections, when the attention of the Duma will
inevitably become more distracted by domestic political matters.
The United States is awaiting entry into force
of START II before proceeding with negotiations towards START III. If the Duma
continues to defer ratification of START II, an option for the United States
would be to commence negotiations with the Russian Government on START III,
notwithstanding inaction on START II. These negotiations might include a
revision of the anomalies in START II, thereby removing an obstacle in the
ratification of that treaty. In fact, it has been suggested that START II and
III be considered together by the Duma.
In a statement to the Preparatory Commission for
the NPT Review Conference on 8 April 1997, the nuclear weapon states expressed
their ‘determination to continue to implement fully all the provisions of the
Treaty, including those of Article VI’. They drew attention to recent steps
taken along the road to disarmament including the conclusion of the CTBT,
proposals for an FMCT, nuclear free zones and the Joint Statement issued by
President Clinton and President Yeltsin in Helsinki.
The CTBT, once it enters into force, will make
it difficult for non-nuclear weapon states to develop a nuclear weapon
capability. It will also restrict but not ban testing by the nuclear weapon
states as it allows computer simulations and sub-critical tests. Data from
earlier tests will enable the nuclear weapon states to take advantage of these
experimental techniques to develop their nuclear weapon capability as well as
ensure the safety of their stockpiles. Although the CTBT might restrict nuclear
experimentation, its passage does not result in a reduction in nuclear weapons
held by the nuclear weapon states.
The FMCT is similar to the CTBT in that it, too,
is basically a non-proliferation rather than a disarmament measure. The
nuclear weapon states do not need more fissile material because they already
possess nuclear weapons and any enlargement of an existing arsenal would be in
blatant disregard of the NPT. The main purpose of an FMCT is, therefore, to
prevent non-nuclear weapon states from acquiring fissile material to build
nuclear weapons. A ban on production of fissile material for nuclear weapons
is a beneficial step in stemming horizontal nuclear proliferation but it should
not be regarded as a disarmament measure. Its entry into force would not
result in any reduction in existing nuclear arsenals.
Both an FMCT and a CTBT would, however, be
integral elements of an eventual global nuclear disarmament agreement, which
would provide for a zero nuclear weapon world.
The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom
and France have all reduced their stockpiles to various degrees in recent
years. Under START I, the United States reduced its strategic forces nuclear
warheads from 10,563 in September 1990 to 7,958 in January 1999 and Russia
reduced its warheads from 10,271 to 6,578 over the same period. The START process has been
stalled for some time and the United Kingdom and France are expected to maintain
their arsenals at current levels for the time being. China has stated that it
will not begin eliminating its arsenal until the United States and Russia
reduce their arsenals to China’s level.
In all of this the basic underlying reality is that we are not
seeing any real fear on the part of these governments, or their republics, that
any kind of nuclear catastrophe is remotely imminent. We are not seeing any
sense at all that unless urgent and sustained remedial steps are taken, and the
occurrence of such a catastrophe is only a matter of time. In the West there
is still almost a prevailing view that the Cold War balance of terror was no
bad thing, and that maybe some ultimate nuclear deterrent capability is needed
to guarantee security. And in India and Pakistan the unhappy reality appears
to be that going nuclear has generated more exultation than anxiety.
But there are many grounds for real and genuine fear, by
everyone in the world, so long as any nuclear weapons remain in existence.
It’s simply a matter of recognising three basic points, made repeatedly and
with stunning simplicity in the Canberra Commission report:
- So long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them.
- The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity
by any state and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility.
- Any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic.
With little movement on the part of the nuclear
weapon states to eliminate their arsenals in the foreseeable future, it is
understandable that many non-nuclear weapon states have become more frustrated
with the nuclear weapon states with regard to compliance with Article VI.
Much of this frustration has been channelled
into proposals for the development of a nuclear disarmament treaty. Attempts
to establish an ad hoc committee in the Conference on Disarmament have been
stymied by the nuclear weapon states. There have also been other moves outside
the Conference on Disarmament to develop such a treaty. Proposals have included
both fixed and open-ended periods for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
It appears highly unlikely that United States
and Russian Governments would begin negotiations towards, let alone support,
either a protocol to the NPT or a separate treaty to give effect to nuclear
disarmament based on a fixed timetable. It would take time for each state to
develop sufficient confidence in the other and win enough public support for
the complete abolition of nuclear weapons before both were in a position to countenance
a zero nuclear weapons option. Therefore, any attempt to impose a timetable on
the nuclear weapon states would be doomed to almost certain failure, a point
highlighted in the Canberra Commission report.
It is also unlikely that, in the foreseeable
future, the nuclear weapon states would even countenance a nuclear disarmament
treaty which is open-ended. None has shown any inclination to go beyond the
current NPT regime.
Eventually, a nuclear disarmament treaty will
have to be negotiated to provide for zero nuclear weapons globally and a
verification system to ensure full compliance by all states. Negotiations
towards such a treaty are provided for in Article VI, which reads in part, ‘and
on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective
international control’. However, the timing for such negotiations is the
crucial question. The nuclear weapon states obviously want to defer any
negotiations towards such a treaty while many of the non-nuclear weapon states
prefer early negotiation, presumably to put pressure on the nuclear weapon
states to adhere more faithfully to Article VI.
There is, of course, a precedent for the
negotiation of an arms control treaty outside of the Conference on
Disarmament. When supporters of a global ban on landmines were unsuccessful in
achieving consensus in the Conference on Disarmament to establish an ad hoc
committee to negotiate a treaty to ban landmines, they convened a convention in
Ottawa to negotiate an agreement to give effect to their aims. Many countries,
including Australia, which initially opposed the proposal (arguing instead that
the matter should be negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament) were
eventually drawn into the process in Ottawa and committed themselves to the global
ban agreed at the conference.
As Ms Stokes pointed out on 9 June 1999, the ban
on landmines does not have universal membership: ‘a number of key countries are
outside of the Ottawa Convention and it is unlikely in the foreseeable future
that they will join’.
However, the circumventing of the United Nations framework enabled progress to
be made on the issue, which probably would not have occurred if it had remained
in the Conference on Disarmament.
The dependence of the Conference on Disarmament
on consensus among its members allows one or a few states to frustrate the work
of the overwhelming majority. India, alone, prevented the Conference from
approving the CTBT and, if it were not for a procedural move, which enabled it
to bypass the Conference and be put directly to the United Nations General
Assembly, it would probably still be languishing in the Conference on
The nuclear weapon states would need to be
involved in the preparation of any nuclear disarmament treaty as the text and
verification regime would have to be acceptable to them.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
argued against negotiations towards a nuclear disarmament treaty. During an
estimates hearing of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation
Committee on 9 June 1999, Ms Stokes said:
We do not share the assessment of the new agenda advocates that
nuclear disarmament has not been proceeding fast enough. It is important to
recognise that US and Russia, the largest nuclear weapons states, have more
than halved their holdings of strategic nuclear weapons in the current decade.
It is a significant step forward, and that bilateral process is the key. We
believe that seeking to introduce some kind of multilateral nuclear disarmament
process will not help that endeavour at all.
At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference,
indefinite extension of the treaty was by no means a foregone conclusion in the
face of significant criticism from non-nuclear weapon states, which were
unhappy with the pace of disarmament by the nuclear weapon states. Since then,
the annual meetings of the Preparatory Commission for the 2000 Review
Conference have been racked with disunity over this issue. The frustration of
many non-nuclear weapon states has given rise to the New Agenda Coalition
seeking to negotiate a nuclear disarmament treaty. The issue has not yet
reached a point of crisis but the frustration appears to be deepening.
Support for the New Agenda Coalition has been
growing. Mr Gareth Evans submitted that the Coalition:
produced an important UN resolution, passed through the First
Committee on 13 November 1998, the centrepiece of which was a call upon the
Nuclear-Weapon States to ‘pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion
negotiations leading to the elimination of’ nuclear weapons. the most
interesting feature of the vote - 97 in favour to 19 against, with 32
abstentions - was that the abstentions included, very much against the will of
the US, Germany and eleven other NATO partners.
Despite difficulties with their respective
legislatures, the United States and Russia still hold the key to progress on
nuclear weapon disarmament. Both sides need to reduce their arsenals for
reasons of maintenance and cost. The security of Russian nuclear weapons, fissile
material and nuclear technology is also a matter of concern. Both governments
should give serious consideration to next moves in their progress towards
A number of witnesses during the inquiry
remarked on Australia’s credentials in the field of arms control and
disarmament. For example, Dr Hanson submitted:
Australia has consistently indicated its favourable view of arms
control and disarmament and has explicitly signalled that it is not prepared to
leave these issues to the major military powers alone. Australia has made its
voice heard in major international forums, notably at the United Nations’
General Assembly and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, has appointed an
Ambassador for Disarmament, has dedicated technical capabilities to the seismic
monitoring of underground nuclear tests and has participated in specific
international programs to prevent and detect the spread of weapons of mass
destruction. One of Australia’s major objectives has been the conclusion of
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; since 1972 it had co-sponsored (with New
Zealand) an annual resolution in the UN General Assembly supporting a
comprehensive ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. While remaining a loyal
supporter of its nuclear US ally, Australia has also been a firm advocate of
arms control and disarmament through respected multilateral forums, thereby
acquiring a considerable degree of respect from the non-nuclear states also.
In view of its arms control and disarmament
credentials and as an ally of the United States, the Committee believes
Australia is well placed to play a creative role in nuclear weapon
disarmament. It could play, for example, an innovative brokering type of role
between the nuclear weapon states and the New Agenda Coalition as it did in
negotiations for the Chemical Weapons Convention and the CTBT. The growing
dissatisfaction with the recent lack of progress cannot be ignored. Unless the
nuclear weapon states continue to move discernibly towards nuclear disarmament
to placate the many dissatisfied non-nuclear weapon states, the NPT itself may
come under pressure.
Report of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
Mr Alan Oxley, Dr Samuel Makinda and Dr Roderic
Pitty commended the work of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of
Nuclear Weapons in evidence to the Committee. Although Australia presented the
Commission’s report to the United Nations General Assembly, neither Australia
nor any other country moved to have the recommendations adopted. Dr Makinda
thought the Australian Government should have sold more vigorously the Canberra
Commission recommendations than it has done.
In relation to the Canberra Commission Report,
Dr Hanson suggested that it was being received better in mid 1998 than it was
in 1996. She stated:
Indeed for most of the organisations involved in the arms
control debate, the Canberra Commission report has come to be the chief, and
possibly the best, reference point. It is seen as comprehensive and credible.
In light of the valuable contribution made by
the Commission, Dr Hanson recommended that the Australian Government reconvene
the Canberra Commission. 
Alternatively, she suggested that the Australian Government seek to have the
Commission Report adopted by the UN General Assembly or the report taken to the
Conference on Disarmament for adoption. In this way she suggested it could be
discussed and used as a basis for an elimination process. In addition to reconsidering
the Canberra Commission Report she also made the following recommendations:
- The Australian delegation to the Non Proliferation Treaty Review
Conference in 2000 explore a position which places emphasis on nuclear
disarmament by the existing nuclear powers;
- Australia’s delegation to the Conference on Disarmament continues
to pursue a Cut-Off Convention as well as a No-First Use Treaty.
A number of submitters have endorsed Dr Hanson’s
recommendation that Australia should build on its record of active involvement
in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Several have recommended that the
Australian Government should take a second serious look at the Canberra
The Australian Council for Overseas Aid pointed out that Australia’s role in
establishing the Canberra Commission gives it solid credibility in this area,
and it should now join other middle level powers to push for the implementation
of the Canberra Commission’s recommendations. It considered that the spread of
nuclear weapons would be halted only by a global response.
In addressing the matter of the Canberra
Commission, Mr Griffin acknowledged that no action was taken to have the report
officially endorsed in the United Nations. He surmised that this was because
people might have regarded further action as ‘counterproductive since most of
the recommendations, all but one in fact, relate to actions to be taken by the
nuclear weapon states in detargeting and strategic escrow for nuclear weapons’.
Mr Griffin added that it was a question of whether positive moves toward nuclear
disarmament by the nuclear weapon states would be best achieved by pressuring
them publicly or by dialogue and simply maintaining the debate.
Ms Stokes pointed out that the Report did
recommend that negotiations proceed expeditiously on a fissile material cut-off
treaty and that the Australian Government was actively pursuing this
Dr Peter Howarth, Director, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Section, DFAT said that a
cut-off treaty was a principal priority for Australia and that Australia was
engaged in activities to try to get an agreement in the Conference on
Disarmament to activate a mandate, agreed to in 1995, for the negotiation of a
cut off treaty.
In response to a suggestion that the Canberra
Commission be invigorated and its findings adopted by the UN, Mr Griffin stated
that since the report was not adopted at the time of its presentation ‘it would
conceivably send the wrong signal to India and Pakistan’s defiance of the
international regime for the international community now to say the established
nuclear weapons states must take the following steps’. Rather, he added that
attention should be centred now on what India and Pakistan need to do to
normalise and regularise their situation in accord with international norms. He
Nuclear disarmament remains an important goal but for the focus
now to be on what nuclear weapon states need to do, as though they have done
something wrong, would seem to be misguided.
Mr Griffin agreed that the Canberra Commission report ‘has
certainly nourished ongoing debate on the way forward on nuclear disarmament’.
The Committee appreciates the view that any
action taken by the international community should not be seen as a reward to
India and Pakistan. Even so, the Committee believes that the Canberra
Commission made such a valuable contribution to the debate on nuclear
non-proliferation and disarmament that its report warrants further
consideration. The lack of a timetable is the key point in the Report as it
does not provide an unrealistic and unachievable commitment, which the nuclear
weapon states could legitimately use as a basis for not supporting it.
While the nuclear weapon states are perceived by
many non-nuclear weapon states as not acting in good faith towards nuclear
disarmament, India and Pakistan are given an excuse for not disbanding their
nuclear weapon programs. Notwithstanding the renunciation by most states of
nuclear weapons for their security, insistence on the part of the five nuclear
weapon states that nuclear weapons are still necessary for their security
enables India and Pakistan to mount a similar case. Moreover, the five nuclear
weapon states are under a legal obligation to move towards nuclear disarmament
but the obligations of India and Pakistan are only moral, not legal.
The Committee believes that the Australian
Government should resubmit the Report of the Canberra Commission to the United
Nations General Assembly for adoption. The Report provides a framework for
universal nuclear disarmament, including possessors of nuclear weapons that are
not NPT nuclear weapon states. As all members of the NPT have made a
commitment to universal nuclear disarmament, the resubmitting of the Report for
adoption is in line with that commitment. It would send a clear signal to all
possessors of nuclear weapons that the international community wants all of
them to dismantle their arsenals.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government seek
formal adoption of the recommendations of the Canberra Commission through
appropriate resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and the
Conference on Disarmament.
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