In Focus

Published: Friday 15 March 1996

The arguments and counter-arguments were well in place. What went abegging was a joint consensusamong the 38 nations participating in the IO-week United Nations-sponsaredsession of the Conference of DisarIDament in Geneva, which began in January this year and continued last month. The issue was once again the controversial Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which seeks to ban nuclear explosions worldwide.

Talks on theCTBT are now precariously !balanced. If an understanding has to be reached, then it should be in place by summer this year, as UN members will require , several months to review the text before presenting the treaty to the next session of the UN General Assembly in October '96. The accord, if arrived at, could also see the end of the SO-year old nuclear arms race.

Disputes, however, exist over certain provisions of the draft text prepared by Australia. India'sconsistent proposal to link the CTBT alongwith a concomitant process of disarmament did not find favour with the nuclear haves like the US, the UK, Russia and France. India's ambassador to the conference, .Arundhati Ghose, stated that the CTBT should leave "no loophole for activity, either explosive-based or non-explosive based, aimed at the continued development and refinement of nuclear weapons." India's stand could possibly delay consensus on the issue. Meanwhile, China wants to be allowed to conduct peaceful nuclear explosions which can have various civilian applications. Further, it proposed that any treaty should become enforceable' only after a number of requirements are met, including being open for signature for a minimum of two years. However, China's interpretation found few takers.

The ongoing talks have resulted in an agreement on an international monitoring system to detect evidence of any clandestine nuclear explosion.

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