1998: Emerging nuclear armed states

1998: Emerging nuclear armed states

1998: India and Pakistan conduct nuclear tests

In explaining its opposition to the CTBT, India stated that “It is a matter of regret that the text, as has finally emerged, does not do justice to the negotiating mandate. It is not a comprehensive ban but merely a ban on nuclear explosive testing. It also lacks a definitive commitment to nuclear disarmament”. However, Keith Hansen, part of the United States’ CTBT negotiating team, believed that India’s refusal to sign the CTBT reflected not only dissatisfaction with the Treaty, but also a desire to join the “Nuclear Club” of nuclear armed countries.

In 1995 and 1996, US satellites had detected activities at India’s nuclear testing site at Pokhran that analysts believed were preparations for a nuclear test. In 1998, after the election of a coalition government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India made the decision to proceed with nuclear weapon testing. According to Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, the BJP used nuclear testing as “part of a strategy to press for India to be accorded the international status and recognition it would like”.

India conducted two underground nuclear tests,
code-named “Shakti ‘98”, on 11 and 13 May 1998.
On 28 and 30 May 1998, Pakistan responded
by conducting two nuclear tests of its own.

In an official press statement issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi announced that “India has a proven capability for a weaponised nuclear programme” and that the tests “provide reassurance to the people of India that their national security interests are paramount and will be promoted and protected”.

India conducted two sets of underground nuclear tests, codenamed “Shakti ‘98”, on 11 and 13 May 1998. The first set included a fission device, a low-yield device and a thermonuclear weapon which, according to Indian officials, produced a 43-kiloton yield. India gained its nuclear capabilities from programmes such as “Atoms for Peace” that supplied nuclear material and technology to countries provided they did not pursue nuclear weapons.

1998: India and Pakistan conduct nuclear tests cont.

Two weeks after the Indian nuclear tests, Pakistan responded by conducting two sets of nuclear tests of its own. From the early 1970s, Pakistan had sought to develop a nuclear program under Minister for Fuel, Power and Natural Resources, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who later served as president and then prime minister.

Subsequent to India’s first nuclear test explosion in 1974, Pakistan intensified its efforts to acquire the materials and knowledge to develop nuclear weapons. In 1976, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan returned to Pakistan after being trained in Germany and working in the Netherlands at the URENCO uranium enrichment plan. Dr. Khan took over the building, equipping and running of the Kahuta uranium enrichment facility, which experts in the United States believed to have produced enough weapons-grade uranium for a fission bomb by 1989-1990.

1998: International response to the nuclear tests in South Asia

The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan respectively sent shockwaves through the international non-proliferation regime. Since the adoption of the CTBT in September 1996, no country had broken the de facto moratorium on nuclear testing. The South Asian nuclear tests produced unanimous condemnation from the international community, as expressed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling on both India and Pakistan to join the NPT and CTBT “without delay”.

The United States imposed economic sanctions on both countries, although six months later, under the India-Pakistan Relief Act of 1998, food and agricultural products were exempted from aid restrictions. The Group of Eight (G8) countries also suspended all non-humanitarian aid to India and Pakistan.

Immediately following their nuclear tests, both India
and Pakistan implemented unilateral moratoria on
nuclear testing.

Immediately following the nuclear tests, both India and Pakistan implemented unilateral moratoria on nuclear testing. On 31 May 1998, India suggested a new global convention on nuclear disarmament, which would apply equally to “all nuclear states”: the five NWS as well as “the de facto nuclear capable countries (i.e., India, Pakistan and Israel).” This proposal met with little enthusiasm from the NWS and gained no traction on the international stage.

Next chapter:
1999-2002: The United States and the CTBT