The Partial Test Ban Treaty Reconsidered


The PTBT, which the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom had signed on 05 August 1963 in Moscow, was heralded as a pioneering step in the path towards the goal of general and complete disarmament. The PTBT was also sought to be projected as the only way for safeguarding the health of living beings from the highly hazardous radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapon tests. Indeed, was safeguarding health the real objective? If that was so, what was the need for an international treaty to save one’s own citizens from the radioactive fallout of one’s own nuclear tests? No wonder, it soon became evident that signing of the PTBT was nothing but a ploy to throw wool over the eyes of unsuspecting peace-loving people across the world to enable the nuclear weapon states to carry on covertly an unbridled nuclear arms race. The manner in which this massive deception was executed needs to be recounted time and again so that even at this late hour appropriate corrective steps could be initiated by concerned people and organizations before their respective national governments and before the United Nations.

Ever since the end of the Second World War in 1945, there have been numerous attempts under the aegis of the United Nations Organisation (UN) to end the arms race and proceed towards disarmament. Egged on by the war-weary peoples of the world who clamoured for peace, attaining the goal of “general and complete disarmament” ostensibly became the primary task of the UN. However, even sixty-eight years later, far from attaining that admirable goal, not only has national budgetary allocations for armaments – and consequentially the destructive power of weapons – increased manifold but also there has been no end to the outbreak of wars and the accompanying death, destruction and misery. Of course, there have been fleeting occasions when major breakthroughs in negotiations did take place and progress towards disarmament appeared imminent. To the utter dismay of the proponents of peace, counter moves by the armaments lobby have invariably thwarted all such possibilities.

It may be recalled that President Truman’s decision on 31 January 1950 to build “super bombs” (which were thousands of times more powerful than the atom bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 06 and 09 August 1945) – and thereby to escalate the nuclear arms race – had evoked widespread outrage across the world. The Stockholm Appeal issued on 15 March 1950 by the World Committee of Partisans for Peace led by stalwarts such as Frederic Juliot Curie, J.D.Bernal, Pablo Picasso, Pablo Neruda and others demanding an absolute ban on nuclear weapons received the support of hundreds of millions of people across the world. However, the U.S leadership remained unperturbed and went ahead with the decision to intensify nuclear weapon testing. Ultimately, it was the widespread disastrous impact of the 15-megaton atmospheric nuclear weapon test called “Bravo”, which the U.S. had conducted on Bikini Atoll on 01 March 1954, which drew worldwide attention to the extremely hazardous nature of atmospheric nuclear weapon tests. Following the “Bravo” test, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave a clarion call in the Indian Parliament on 02 April 1954 for immediate suspension of all nuclear weapon tests. All concerned people warmly welcomed the proposal. Responding favourably to Prime Minister Nehru’s call for a “standstill” agreement on nuclear weapon testing, the Soviet Union on 10 May 1954 proposed a nuclear test ban as the initial step towards nuclear disarmament. However, the U.S. Administration was not amenable to the proposal. Therefore, again on 12 July 1956, India placed before the UN Disarmament Commission yet another proposal for ‘Cessation of All Explosions of Nuclear and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction’.[1] Meanwhile, the Russell-Einstein Appeal of 1955, which was also ignored by the U.S. Administration, had a profound influence on the peace movement. The Appeal helped peace groups to arouse peoples’ consciousness and organize mass movements in many parts of the world in support of the test ban.

Since the pressure exerted by the global peace movement and by the non-aligned nations was so immense in the late 1950s and early 1960s for concrete action towards disarmament, the then two major ideological adversaries – the U.S. and the USSR – were forced to arrive at a significant agreement – the McCloy-Zorin Accord on General and Complete Disarmament – on 20 September 1961. For the next two years, the world expectantly awaited the signing of a comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as the first step towards general and complete disarmament. While intense negotiations took place in the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC, which was constituted by the UN General Assembly for implementing the McCloy-Zorin Accord) for concluding a comprehensive test ban treaty, nothing came out of the efforts purportedly because of differences over the type of verification systems to be adopted for ensuring compliance. The cause of disagreement was whether the verification system should be by non-intrusive national technical means only or whether it should also include intrusive on-site inspection as well.

From Disarmament to Arms Control

Ultimately, responding favourably to President Kennedy’s conciliatory speech at the American University, Washington, DC, on 10 June 1963, Premier Khrushchev on 02 July 1963 announced that the USSR was willing to consider signing a treaty outlawing nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water, while permitting underground ones. This was practically the proposal that the U.S. and the UK had made on 27 August 1962. The decision to propose a PTBT was in all probability a convoluted move by the right-wing forces in the U.S. to sabotage the prospect of having to sign a CTBT, negotiations for which had reached an advanced stage at that time. If the issue of verification was the obstacle, nothing prevented the two sides from continuing with the moratorium on nuclear tests, which the two sides had successfully observed between November 1958 and September 1961, until agreement on an acceptable verification system was reached. The Soviet Union, by acceding to the PTBT, showed that it lacked the political will to press for a CTBT. (It is also quite possible that the USSR had presumed that by then it had attained scientific and technological parity with the United States in this area and that it could afford to wage a nuclear arms race with the U.S. – a quixotic notion that ultimately contributed to USSR’s demise in no small measure. The mindless 50-megaton atmospheric test, which the USSR had conducted on 30 September 1961, was certainly an ominous sign of the reckless path the USSR had sought to pursue.)


Shortly after Khrushchev’s said announcement, negotiations began in Moscow on 15 July 1963 and ten days later, on 25 July 1963, the three parties at the talks (USA, UK and USSR) agreed to conclude a Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) – also known as Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), which they signed on 05 August 1963 with much euphoria. [2] Although the U.S. Senate ratified the LTBT on 24 September 1963, about one-fifth of the senators had opposed it on the ground that the LTBT had compromised USA’s national security concerns. Moreover, as McGeorge Bundy has pointed out: “In the process of ratification the administration gave assurances on continued underground testing that were honored in later years. The LTBT cleaned up the atmosphere, and it also prevented testing in space and underwater, but it did not stop continuing technological advance in the design of nuclear warheads.”[3] Nor did the PTBT in any way hinder the production of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, which went on unabated.


In the background of the Cuban Missile crisis of October 1962, the PTBT may have been signed in good faith in order to allay fears of a nuclear conflagration. However, from hindsight – especially in the light of the assassination of President Kennedy on 22 November 1963 and its aftermath – it appears that in effect the signing of the PTBT constituted a great betrayal of the peace movement. The signing of the PTBT – instead of the much-awaited comprehensive test ban treaty – not only succeeded in disrupting the peace movement but also misled the world into believing that the PTBT was a significant step in the direction of nuclear disarmament. Indeed, nothing was farther from the truth! The peace loving people were so eager for some kind of agreement between the two adversaries that the majority of them were easily taken in by the rhetoric of the PTBT.

Many of the better informed felt that the PTBT would at least eliminate the danger to human health by stopping atmospheric testing. If, as it was later claimed, the central concern was about safeguarding human health, both USA and USSR could have unilaterally stopped atmospheric tests. This is because most of the atmospheric tests at that time were being conducted at the Nevada test site in the U.S. and at the Semipalatinsk and Novaya Zemlia test sites in the USSR. People living near these test sites were the ones, who were primarily exposed to radiation hazards from the radioactive fallout from nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. and the USSR. Therefore, there was absolutely no need for an international treaty to save one’s own citizens from the disastrous effects of one’s own nuclear tests! This truth had then escaped the attention of most peace loving people. (Of course, of the total 331 nuclear tests that the U.S. had conducted between 1945 and 1963, 105 atmospheric tests and 5 underwater tests were carried out in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Also depending on atmospheric conditions, some of the radioactive fallout from the tests conducted by the U.S. and the USSR was carried to distant places as well.)

UK and France, which were conducting nuclear tests in their colonies – Australia, Algeria and French Polynesia, were hardly bothered about the radiation effects on the local inhabitants. France, anyway, had refused to sign the PTBT. At the time of signing the PTBT on 05 August 1963, USA, USSR, Great Britain and France together had conducted about 547 nuclear weapon tests. [4] However, by May 1998, the total number of such tests (including those conducted by China, India and Pakistan) had gone up to 2051. [5] Despite the PTBT, France and China continued to conduct atmospheric tests until 1974 and 1980 respectively. Of the total 210 nuclear weapon tests carried out by France, 49 tests were atmospheric ones – 3 in Algeria and 46 in French Polynesia. China has conducted 45 nuclear tests including 23 atmospheric ones all at its test site in Lop Nur. North Korea has since joined the bandwagon on 09 October 2006. Thus, all that the PTBT did was to drive atmospheric and underwater tests underground! The real character of the PTBT, thereby, stood thoroughly exposed. It is, therefore, obvious that there was no need for an international treaty to stop atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests; unilateral steps by the various nuclear weapon states could have easily achieved that goal.

Dissipation of the Peace Movement

With the signing of the PTBT, the powerful global peace movement not only almost dissipated away but also the attention of whatever was left of it was focused on the Vietnam War and similar issues related to restoring peace rather than on tackling the question of disarmament. Seizing the opportunity, the nuclear weapon states (NWS) made a radical departure away from the goal of general and complete disarmament and began to introduce what were termed as “pragmatic steps” or partial arms control measures. Treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT-1968), Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) treaties [1969-2009]*, the so-called Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT-1996), the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), etc. – while not hurting the interests of the NWS – gave the false impression that concrete actions were being taken by the NWS to stem and reverse the nuclear arms race.

[*except for the Antarctic (1961) & Outer Space treaties (1967)]


The nuclear disarmament movement did resurrect in the late 1970s/early 1980s following the proposal made in 1977 by the U.S. to introduce enhanced radiation weapon (the neutron bomb) into the European theatre and the scare unleashed by utterances in the U.S. ruling circles of the possibility of waging “limited” / ”winnable” nuclear war in Europe. However, by placing undue emphasis on benign and meaningless treaties such as the NPT, NWFZ, etc., the NWS have successfully managed to divert attention of peace activists away from the present nuclear danger to the probable nuclear danger in future. Potential nuclear weapon-capable states have since become the primary focus of attention of the “nuclear non-proliferation” campaign; clear and present danger held out by the NWS has been conveniently relegated to the background and has only of late, if at all, become part of the discourse, that too mostly in relation to the teeth-less Article VI of the NPT.

“Non-proliferation” has now become the catchword; the phrase “general and complete disarmament” has disappeared from the vocabulary of the dominant peace movement. (If at all any reference is made to “general and complete disarmament”, it is only in a derogatory sense by being dismissive about it and by alleging that it was “primarily designed to score propaganda points rather than serve as any true basis for negotiations.” [6]). So drastic has been the adverse impact of the signing of the PTBT in 1963 on the disarmament movement as a whole that since then two or more generations of peace activists are hardly aware of the McCloy-Zorin Accord! Nor have the two separate proposals for general and complete disarmament put forward by the USSR and USA, on 15 March and 18 April 1962 respectively, ever been an integral part of the discourse of even the dominant peace movements! These shocking facts testify to the level of disinformation that the peace loving people across the world have been subjected to since the signing of the PTBT in 1963. No wonder that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s “Action Plan for a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order” that he had proposed before the UN General Assembly on 09 June 1988 too has not received the due recognition that it truly deserved.

CTBT – Yet another Fraudulent Treaty

Renewed concern about the need for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) began in the late 1970s when peace-loving people the world over (whose attention had been completely diverted from the issue of nuclear weapons following the signing of the PTBT in 1963) were rudely shaken when they found that humanity was at the precipice of nuclear annihilation. However, the vast majority of them still refused to believe that the reasons for humanity finding itself at that edge possibility lay in the unsavory developments that took place under the cover of the PTBT and the NPT. The massive nuclear arms build-up, the worsening of “East-West” relations, floating doctrines of “winnable” and “limited” nuclear war, etc., only increased the fear of an outbreak of nuclear war.

As a result, socially committed scientists and peace movements began to express their outrage at the drift towards nuclear war. There were no options for them other than to re-organize and rally people against the goings on. They sought a freeze on testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons. Thus, the issue of a comprehensive test ban again came to the forefront. In response to appeals from peace groups, the USSR declared a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing during 1985-87. In August 1988, the Six-Nation Initiative (Argentina, Greece, India, Mexico, Sweden and Tanzania) requested the United Nations to convene a special conference to consider amending the PTBT to make it comprehensive. The PTBT Amendment Conference, which was convened in January 1991, could not reach any agreement. In October 1991, the USSR again announced a one-year moratorium on testing; later the United States too joined the moratorium. After the dissolution of the USSR on 26 December 1991, Russia, as USSR’s legal successor, extended the moratorium and the U.S. followed suit. On 16 December 1993, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to negotiate a CTBT as soon as possible.

The 38-member CD was constituted in 1978 by replacing the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee. In 1993, the CD was further expanded into a 61-member body. CTBT negotiations began in the CD in January 1994 in Geneva. On 22 August 1996, India and Iran blocked a consensus in the CD because of serious differences on the final CTBT text. India’s grouse was that the proposed CTBT text was neither comprehensive nor linked to the issue of nuclear disarmament. Thereafter, the President of the CD, flouting all norms of the CD where draft texts are always adopted by consensus, forwarded the disputed CTBT text to the UN General Assembly. The UN General Assembly adopted the present CTBT on 10 September 1996 despite strong opposition from India.

The preamble to the CTBT very proudly states that the States that are parties to the Treaty recognize that:

“the cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions and all other nuclear explosions, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects”.

Article I of the Treaty, which consists of two basic obligations, also states as follows:

“1.          Each State Party undertakes not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control.

2.            Each State Party undertakes, furthermore, to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.” [7]

U.S. Administration’s Convoluted Logic

On the face of it, what has been stated in the preamble and in Article-I of the Treaty are of great significance and it would have certainly gone a long way in advancing the cause of nuclear disarmament. However, the reality was quite different. Unlike any other treaty, key terms in the present CTBT are left undefined. For example, terms such as“qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons”“advanced new types of nuclear weapons”“nuclear weapon test explosions”“other nuclear explosions”“comprehensive test ban”, etc., have not been specified in technical terms. The difference between “test” and “use” of nuclear weapons has not been explained either. Thus, it is not at all clear what is prohibited by the CTBT. The decision not to define these terms was not due to any oversight but was the outcome of a calculated strategy devised by the U.S. Administration, whose representatives for all practical purposes were steering the discussion on the Draft CTBT text in the CD. This is evident from the “Article by Article Analysis of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty”, which was transmitted by the U.S. President to the U.S. Senate on 22 September 1997. Regarding Article I of the Treaty, the said“Article by Article analysis…” has quite emphatically stated the following:

[a]  “The U.S. decided at the outset of negotiations that it was unnecessary, and probably would be problematic, to seek to include a definition in the Treaty text of a “nuclear weapon test explosion or any other explosion” for the purpose of specifying in technical terms what is prohibited by the Treaty… It is clearly understood by all negotiating parties, as a result of President Clinton’s announcement on August 11, 1995, that the U.S. will continue to conduct a range of nuclear weapon activities to ensure the safety and reliability of its nuclear weapons stockpile, some of which, while not involving a nuclear explosion may result in the release of nuclear energy.”


[b]          “With respect to the obligation “not to carry out” any nuclear explosion, the negotiating record reveals that Article I does not limit in any way a State Party’s ability to conduct activities in preparation for a nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. During the negotiations, a proposal to prohibit such preparations was rejected as being unnecessary, too difficult to define, and too complicated and costly to verify. In addition, the U.S. opposed this proposal because it might interfere with its ability to maintain the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the Treaty should the United States… withdraw from the Treaty…”


[c]           “The United States understands that Article I, paragraph 1 does not prohibit any activities not involving nuclear explosions that are required to maintain the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. stockpile, to include: design, development, production, and remanufacture of nuclear weapons, replacement of weapon parts, flight testing of weapon components, engineering tests of the mechanical and electrical integrity of weapon components under a variety of environmental conditions and changes to weapons.”

[d]          “Finally, the obligation “not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” does not place limitations on the ability of the United States to use nuclear weapons. As noted above, the phrase “or any other nuclear explosion” is identical in meaning to that of the same text in the LTBT [PTBT], where it was clearly understood that the phrase would not apply to a prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons in the event of war. Similarly, the CTBT negotiating record demonstrates that the prohibitions in Article I do not apply to the use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. position, which was repeated on numerous occasions, was that any proposed undertakings relating to the use of nuclear weapons were totally beyond the scope of this Treaty and the mandate of its negotiation. Moreover, the Preamble reflects this view in that it does not in any way address the issue of the use of nuclear weapons. Thus, Article I of the Treaty cannot be deemed to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons or restrict the exercise of the right of self-defence recognised in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.”

(e)          “Paragraph 1 of Article I also obligates each State party to prohibit and prevent any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control…. CTBT negotiators adopted this formulation in order to make clear that the obligation to “prohibit and prevent” is directed at activities of other states and non-state entities that are conducted on the territory of the State Party or at places under its jurisdiction or control.” [8]


CTBT – A Mere Moratorium on Testing

As is evident from the “Article by Article Analysis…” as quoted in para (a) above, the U.S. officials have argued that:  “The U.S. decided at the outset of negotiations that it was unnecessary, and probably would be problematic, to seek to include a definition in the Treaty text of a ‘nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion’ for the purpose of specifying in technical terms what is prohibited by the Treaty.”

The U.S. negotiators were very clear in what they were seeking: they wanted to avoid definitions that would be problematic; or to be more precise, they wanted to leave key terms undefined so that such terms could be subjected to convenient interpretations. This posture of the U.S. negotiators was unprecedented. The normal practice has always been to define key terms of a Treaty in order to ensure that such terms are not subjected to varying interpretations that violate the spirit of a Treaty. In every treaty there is invariably a clause specifically dealing with definitions. (For example, Article II of the Chemical Weapons Convention deals with ‘Definitions and Criteria’. [9]) But given the fact that the key phrase “nuclear weapon test explosion” has not been defined in the present CTBT, how is it possible to strictly verify if a “nuclear weapon test explosion” has indeed taken place and whether the Treaty has been violated? How could any action be contemplated against any nation if critical phrases of a Treaty are open to varied interpretations? The motive behind leaving key terms of the CTBT undefined is, therefore, very suspect.

Again, from the “Article by Article Analysis…” as quoted in para (b) above, the official U.S. view is that: “…Article I does not limit in any way a State Party’s ability to conduct activities in preparation for a nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.”  According to this interpretation, after agreeing to a “comprehensive” test ban, States that are parties to that very Treaty are at liberty to continue to “conduct activities in preparation for nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions”! What is the justification or logic in claiming that such activities would not constitute violation of the Treaty? Such liberal interpretations only make a complete mockery of the very purpose of signing the CTBT. It may also be noted that Part 2 of Article I of the CTBT clearly stipulates that each State Party should “refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion”. When it is so, how can it be said, as the U.S. Administration now claims, that the said Article I “does not limit in any way a State Party’s ability to conduct activities in preparation for a nuclear weapon test explosion”? If that was the case, why were the parameters of Article I of the Treaty not clearly defined? Who has prevented whom from doing so? The United States was fully involved in drafting the Treaty. Therefore, the decision not to define the parameters of Article I is nothing but a deliberate ploy on the part of the United States to indulge in what they themselves describe as the tactics of “hedging”. [10] In effect, the CTBT is only an undertaking to observe a moratorium on further nuclear weapon testing – a moratorium that can be broken at will! Moreover, because the moratorium may be broken some time or the other, a State Party to the Treaty has to remain prepared to restart testing at any time!

The official U.S. view as quoted from the “Article by Article Analysis…” in para (c) above is that: “…Article I, paragraph 1 does not prohibit any activities not involving nuclear explosions that are required to maintain the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. stockpile, to include: design, development, production, and remanufacture of nuclear weapons….” Who has prevented who from including all necessary clauses in the Treaty to prohibit the activities described above? The truth is that it is the U.S. negotiators who have ensured that all the activities described above are not included under Article I of the Treaty. Therefore, all the arguments by the U.S. Administration about Article I notprohibiting certain activities are just hogwash. Suffice to say that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty after all is not all that “comprehensive”!

The official U.S. interpretation as quoted from the “Article by Article Analysis…” in para (d) above is that: “…the obligation ‘not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion’ does not place limitations on the ability of the United States to use nuclear weapons.… Similarly, the CTBT negotiating record demonstrates that the prohibitions in Article I do not apply to the use of nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added) Given the fact that Article I places an obligation on the State parties to the Treaty to also “prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control”, the said obligation can only be interpreted as a blanket ban on all types of nuclear explosions. Or does it mean that under the present CTBT “nuclear explosions” are permissible outside a State party’s jurisdiction and control?  The U.S. Administration itself has ruled out such a possibility. This is evident from the official U.S. interpretation as quoted from the “Article by Article Analysis…” in para (e) above, which states that:

“CTBT negotiators adopted this formulation in order to make clear that the obligation to “prohibit and prevent” is directed at activities of other states and non-state entities that are conducted on the territory of the State Party or at places under its jurisdiction or control.” (Emphasis added)

If a State party has an obligation to “prohibit and prevent” nuclear weapon “test” explosions by other State parties “on the territory of the State Party or at places under its jurisdiction or control”, the said State party has an equal obligation to “prohibit and prevent” nuclear weapon “use” explosions by other State parties on its territory as well.  If Article I has not imposed a blanket ban on all nuclear explosions there should have been an explanatory note attached to the Treaty to that effect. However, the U.S. negotiators have ensured that there is no such explanatory note attached to the Treaty. By doing so, most of the nations and peace activists of the world have tended to take Article I at face value.  Thus, the U.S. has found it easy to indulge in doublespeak. If Article I does not mean what it says, then why is there so much hype about the CTBT?  In addition, what is the difference between “testing” of nuclear weapons and “use” of such weapons? Why was no attempt made to explain the difference? If “testing” of nuclear weapons to derive technical data constitute an illegitimate act and a crime, how can “use” or threat of use of nuclear weapons to exterminate human beings mindlessly on a gigantic scale remain a legitimate right? Alternatively, would it make any sense if India claims that it did not “test” nuclear weapons at Pokhran but only “used” nuclear weapons at Pokhran considering that “use” of nuclear weapons is a legitimate right as far as the U.S. Administration was concerned?

From the U.S. Administration’s point of view, the CTBT not only affords the U. S. the “right” to use nuclear weapons, but it also imposes upon it an “obligation” to develop a ballistic missile defence system! Therefore, the CTBT in its present form is tailor made to suit U.S. interests. But, as of now, the only way open for any other State Party to the CTBT to “prohibit and prevent” other states from conducting tests on the territory of the State Party is by appealing to the conscience of humanity, i.e., to the citizens of all other State parties. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that each State Party to the CTBT gives an undertaking that it would not conduct any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other explosion on the territories, which fall under the jurisdiction of other State Parties. This obligation has to include “test” as well as “use” of nuclear weapons, as the distinction between the two is not discernible.

It is interesting to note that under the present CTBT, research on new weapon designs would continue in the well-equipped & well-maintained nuclear weapon laboratories and new weapon-design experts would continue to be trained. The nuclear test sites too would continue to be kept in a state of preparedness to resume full-scale underground testing at any time. The United States has already announced in May 1995 that it was pursuing a ‘Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program’ (SSMP) to maintain nuclear weapon capability without underground testing. The SSMP would also ensure that the U.S. has the capability to re-fabricate and certify weapon types in the enduring nuclear weapon stockpile, to maintain the capability to design, fabricate and certify new warheads, etc.,. [11] Thus, the various provisions of the present CTBT not only are far from being comprehensive but also have enough loopholes in them for nuclear weapon powers to circumvent them for serving their own ends! The present CTBT, in other words, is just another version of the infamous PTBT. It is certainly nothing more than that for there will be no capping of nuclear weapons development and no ban on conduct of so-called sub-critical nuclear weapon tests.[12] For all practical purposes, all that the CTBT is currently ensuring is a moratorium on nuclear weapon “test explosions” and nothing more! Those who keep supporting the present CTBT have obviously neither bothered to read the various provisions of the CTBT properly nor bothered to see through the intent and purpose of the U.S Administration in ensuring that key provisions of the Treaty are left undefined. Such gross indifference on their part regarding the actual content and purpose of the present CTBT is certainly a matter of grave concern. In fact, as India has forthrightly stated, “A truly comprehensive treaty should have fossilised the technology of nuclear weapons”. [13] If nuclear weapon “test” explosion remains an illegitimate act, nuclear weapon “use” explosion cannot remain a legitimate right. It is the U.S. Administration’s paranoid obsession and self-proclaimed right-of-first-use of nuclear weapons against any of its self-proclaimed adversaries, which is preventing progress towards nuclear disarmament.

N.D. Jayaprakash is Joint-Secretary, Delhi Science Forum. He can be reached at jaypdsf@gmail.com


[1] DC/98, Official Records of the Disarmament Commission, Supplement for January-December 1956. Reproduced in ‘Disarmament: India’s Initiatives’, External Publicity Division, Ministry of External  Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, 1988, p.10

[2] See: http://www.state.gov/t/avc/trty/199116.htm

[3] McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival – Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years, Affiliated East-West Press Pvt Ltd., New Delhi, 1989, pp.460-461

[4] SIPRI Year Book 1988, p.73

[5] Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 1998, p.66 at: http://thebulletin.org/

[6] Daryl Kimball and Wade Boese, “Limited Test Ban Treaty Turns 40”, Arms Control Today, October 2003, at:


[7] See: http://www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/content/treaty/treaty_text.pdf

[8] See: “Article by Article Analysis of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty”, Article I – Basic Obligations (paras 8, 10, 12, 13 & 14) at:


[9] ‘Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and their Destruction’ (13 January 1993), at:


[10] U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defence, Harold Smith, “Assuring Confidence in the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile”, 12 March 1996, at: http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=929

[11] See: http://www.learnworld.com/ZNW/LWText.DOE.Stockpile.html

[12] See: https://www.llnl.gov/str/Conrad.html &


[13] ‘India’s Official Stand on the CTBT’, statement by Ms. Arundathi Ghose, India’s Ambassador and  Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, at the Plenary Session of the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, 20th August 1996, para 8 at: http://www.fas.org/news/india/1996/ctbt_cd_august_20_96.htm





N.D. Jayaprakash is Joint Secretary, Delhi Science Forum and Co-Convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (Coalition for supporting the Cause of the Bhopal Gas Victims).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine



zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe