Report to Congress:
Update on Progress Toward
Regional Nonproliferation in South Asia

Released by the Bureau of South Asian Affairs, June 15, 1997.

This report, the ninth to be submitted pursuant to section 620F(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, provides an update on nonproliferation efforts in South Asia, including efforts taken by the United States to achieve a regional agreement on nuclear nonproliferation, and a comprehensive list of the obstacles to concluding such an agreement. It does not contain classified information associated with these issues. The report covers the period October 1, 1996, to March 30, 1997.


South Asia is a key region in our global effort to curb the development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile delivery systems. The danger is underscored by persistent Indo-Pakistani tensions over Kashmir and ongoing nuclear and missile development programs in both countries.

We believe that both India and Pakistan could assemble a limited number of nuclear weapons in a relatively short time frame. India exploded a nuclear device in May 1974. Since 1990, the President has been unable to certify, as required by Section 620E of the Foreign Assistance Act (the "Pressler Amendment"), that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device. India and Pakistan have combat aircraft that could be modified to deliver nuclear weapons in a crisis. Both are developing or seeking to acquire ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Such destabilizing delivery systems have the potential of striking major population centers in the other country.

The United States continues to encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint in their nuclear and missile programs. The combination of missiles and nuclear weapons opens up the risk of both strategic instability and an expensive Indo-Pakistani competition.

The United States strongly encourages India and Pakistan to fulfill their stated support for global nondiscriminatory treaties to end nuclear testing and the production of fissile material for use in nuclear explosives. India's Prime Minister Nehru was, in fact, the first to propose such steps. Indian and Pakistani participation is particularly important for these treaties. For the CTBT, Indian and Pakistani signature and ratification--along with that of 42 other states with nuclear power and research reactors--are required before the treaty can enter into force. In 1993 India and Pakistan joined a U.N. consensus calling for the completion of these treaties. Both India and Pakistan supported the mandate for FMCT negotiations adopted by the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in early 1995. Subsequently, however, India and Pakistan had second thoughts about supporting both of these treaties.

While their missile and unsafeguarded nuclear programs continue, Pakistan and India have shown restraint in some areas. India detonated a nuclear device 23 years ago and, despite reports of test preparations in late 1995, has not conducted a second test. Pakistan has never tested a nuclear device. We welcome this self-restraint and want it to continue. India and Pakistan have sought to acquire nuclear and missile technology from abroad, but each has a policy of not exporting nuclear or ballistic missile materials, technology or components. India, in fact, began in 1995 to implement its own program of missile export controls. Further, while we are concerned about ballistic missile acquisition and development, both countries have refrained from deploying ballistic missiles.

Recent Events and U.S. Efforts

Global Initiatives - Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

The completion and opening for signature last year of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty represents the latest step toward reducing the global nuclear threat and makes a major contribution to nuclear disarmament. Under this treaty, the nuclear weapons states are constrained in their ability to develop new generations of nuclear weapons.

Despite promoting a test ban treaty for decades, India voted against the U.N. General Assembly resolution endorsing the CTBT, which was adopted on September 10, 1996, by an overwhelming margin (158-3, with 5 abstentions). Not prepared to take steps that it fears will constrain its "nuclear option," India objected to the lack of provision for universal nuclear disarmament "within a time-bound framework." India also demanded that the treaty ban laboratory simulations. In addition, India opposed the provision in Article XIV of the CTBT that requires its ratification for the treaty to enter into force, which it argued was a violation of its sovereign right to choose whether it would sign the treaty. In early February this year, Foreign Minister Gujral reiterated India's opposition to the treaty, saying that "India favors any step aimed at destroying nuclear weapons, but considers that the treaty in its current form is not comprehensive and bans only certain types of tests." Nevertheless, India's poor showing in the vote in October for a nonpermanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, coming so closely on the heels of its isolation on the CTBT, has caused some in India to question the wisdom of New Delhi's hard-line tactics in trying to block the CTBT.

Like India, Pakistan sought commitments by the nuclear weapons states to negotiate nuclear disarmament in a timebound framework, as well as assurances that the nuclear weapons states would not conduct subcritical experiments that could be used for the qualitative development of nuclear weapons. Pakistan also had concerns regarding the intrusiveness of on-site inspections, especially on the basis of national technical means, but it accepted a compromise provision that such inspections can be launched after approval by 30 of the 51 members of the CTBT's Executive Council. Meanwhile, Pakistan insisted that Indian ratification be required for entry into force. With its rival so bound, Pakistan voted in favor of the U.N. General Assembly resolution endorsing the CTBT. Since then, Pakistan has said it will not sign the CTBT until India does, and until Islamabad has assessed whether signing the treaty serves its security interests.

We continue to encourage India to reconsider its opposition to signing the treaty and join the world community in a significant step for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Similarly, we continue to encourage Pakistan to do the same.

Global Initiatives - Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty

The FMCT is the next multilateral step in the pursuit of the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. It will also offer positive benefits for regional security in South Asia by legally codifying and providing a verification regime for a ban on any further production of unsafeguarded fissile material that could be used for nuclear weapons in China, India, and Pakistan, thereby helping to address India's concerns vis-à-vis China and Pakistan's concerns vis-à-vis India.

India and Pakistan joined the U.N. consensus in early 1995 establishing a negotiating mandate for the FMCT. Nonetheless, India and Pakistan have led nonaligned efforts to link treaty negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) with progress on nuclear disarmament. As a result of these efforts, the start of FMCT negotiations in the CD has been delayed. At the 51st UNGA in New York, India reiterated its support for linking the FMCT to nuclear disarmament talks. Pakistan, for its part, called for FMCT talks to begin, without explicitly linking these talks to nuclear disarmament issues, but also called for the establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament in the CD. India, Pakistan, and other nations within the non-aligned movement should understand that linking FMCT negotiations to multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in the CD will only perpetuate the current impasse and ignores the negative effect such negotiations would have on ongoing nuclear disarmament efforts outside of the CD--for example, the START process. The CD focused its attention in 1996 on successfully negotiating a CTBT, and we urge India and Pakistan to facilitate the initiation of FMCT negotiations in the CD in 1997.

Despite its claims of supporting nonaligned solidarity, we believe Pakistan's interest in delaying FMCT negotiations is aimed at preventing the rapid negotiation of a treaty that, in its view, would preserve India's perceived advantage in fissile material levels. In the CD, Pakistan is pressing to negotiate on existing stockpiles of fissile material, not just future production. In actuality, the treaty would prevent India, which has the larger nuclear infrastructure, from further increasing the perceived gap between Indian and Pakistani fissile material stockpiles. Meanwhile, some Indian media commentators argue that a cap on Indian fissile material production would leave India far behind the stockpiles of the nuclear weapons states--particularly China--and, therefore, is not in their country's security interest. Other Indian commentators, however, recently have argued that an FMCT could be in India's security interest because it would cap China's and Pakistan's production.

Global Initiatives - Chemical Weapons Convention

India became the 62nd state to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, depositing the instruments of ratification with the U.N. Secretary General on September 3, 1996. In March, however, Foreign Minister Gujral told the Indian Parliament that if other countries--including the United States, Russia, China, and Pakistan--do not ratify the CWC, India will review its ratification decision and retains the option to withdraw from the treaty. Pakistan has signed the CWC but has not completed arrangements to ratify it.

Nuclear Test Capabilities

The U.S. continues to urge India and Pakistan to refrain from conducting a nuclear test, and we continue to monitor the situation in both countries carefully. We have argued that a test would not enhance the security of either country, and would set back global disarmament efforts, particularly now that all five nuclear weapons states and Israel have signed the CTBT. The U.S. welcomed a statement to the press by Prime Minister Deve Gowda in September that India has no plans to build nuclear weapons or to test. Senior Indian officials have reaffirmed statements of restraint concerning nuclear testing, while preserving the option to test if New Delhi's security situation changed significantly. In late October, one of India's prominent nuclear scientists said publicly that India's present nuclear capability is sufficient and there is no need to conduct further nuclear tests. Senior Pakistani leaders have stated that Pakistan would respond commensurately to any Indian test.

Both countries are aware of the damage that a test would do to relations with the United States, in particular through implementation of the strict sanctions called for by the Glenn Amendment, as modified by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1994, and codified in section 102 of the Arms Export Control Act, against any non-nuclear weapon state that detonates a nuclear explosive device. The statute requires that the U.S. discontinue most forms of economic assistance, defense sales and services, and credit guarantees. Glenn Amendment sanctions would also cut off U.S. Export-Import Bank support, and would require the U.S. Government to block American bank loans to the government, and to oppose loans from the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

Missile Issues

We continue to closely monitor developments in South Asian ballistic missile programs. Ballistic missiles threaten to move regional arms competition to a new, destabilizing level. The Indian press reports that the Indian Army has inducted (i.e., taken administrative possession of) the 150-kilometer-range Prithvi SRBM, but reports of Prithvi deployment were denied. On February 23, India conducted a third test of the 250-km-range version of the Prithvi, which is intended for eventual fielding with the Air Force. Foreign Minister Gujral said emphatically last August that the Prithvi does not have nuclear warheads. India has consistently stated that Prithvi is to be conventionally armed.

India's medium-range ballistic missile program, the Agni, was the object of some confusion in December when press reports that the system was on hold coincided with the visit to India by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. That month a parliamentary committee released a report indicating it would not challenge a Ministry of Defense (MOD) standard reply (to an earlier parliamentary recommendation) that the Agni is a "re-entry technology demonstration project which has been successfully completed." The MOD statement, which was dated April 10, 1996, added that a decision to actually develop and produce a missile system based on Agni technologies could be taken later depending on prevailing threat perceptions and the global and regional security environment. In early January, India's Defense Minister refuted press reports that the Agni had been shelved under foreign pressure. This March, Prime Minister Deve Gowda told the Indian Parliament that his government would support continued research on the Agni. While research and testing continue, the Indian Government appears to appreciate that missile deployments would increase regional tensions, and seems to have adopted a policy of developing and maintaining missile capability while not rushing to deployment.

We have not made a determination that China and Pakistan have engaged in sanctionable activity through the transfer of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)-class missiles to Pakistan. (U.S. law provides for different sanctions in each of two categories: Category I involving complete missiles and major subsystems, and Category II involving less sensitive and dual-use items.) Category II sanctions were imposed on Chinese and Pakistani entities in 1993 for the transfer to Pakistan of MTCR-class missile-related items and were waived against Chinese entities in October 1994. Subsequently, we have not made a determination that China has conducted activities inconsistent with its October 1994 commitment to ban all exports of MTCR-class ground-to-ground missiles. We will continue to keep this matter under review.

Pakistan has not deployed ballistic missiles, but it has continued its own development program. Category II MTCR sanctions against Pakistani entities for importing missile-related technology and equipment expired in August 1995. Pakistani leaders have long maintained that a Prithvi deployment by India would cause them to respond in kind "within the parameters of the MTCR." In reaction to the test launch of the Prithvi in late February, Pakistani officials expressed concern about India's perceived plans to escalate a missile race in the region. In late January, the Pakistani press reported that, in light of alleged Indian missile deployments, Pakistan has decided to indigenously manufacture M-11-type missiles with a range of under 300 kilometers to avoid "seriously annoying the United States and other Western powers." We consider the M-11, even if it is claimed to have a lower range or payload than covered by the MTCR, to be a Category I missile due to its inherent capabilities.

Indo-Pakistani Relations

The resumption of Foreign Secretary talks is a welcome step in reducing the tensions between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, firing incidents, including occasional mortar and artillery exchanges, across the line of control are a daily occurrence. Confidence-building measures in place have not been used effectively and, in some cases, have been abandoned completely. While the threat of war has receded considerably, relations between these two nations have been stagnant for many years. We were encouraged by Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif's early call for senior level talks with India, and by the Indian Government's positive response. Foreign Secretaries from the two countries met in New Delhi March 28-31. The meetings were held in a cordial atmosphere, and the Secretaries agreed to meet again in Islamabad. New Delhi and Islamabad were also making arrangements for meetings between their Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers on the margins of upcoming international conferences in the region. We and many other well-wishers hope both countries will take full advantage of these opportunities. If high-level meetings between India and Pakistan were held routinely, they would be less subject to disruption by events or the pressures of domestic politics and popular emotions, and they would provide a foundation for discussion of such difficult and divisive issues as Kashmir and proliferation. This would also be helped if working groups were established that continued to meet between the high-level meetings. Building a mature, thoughtful dialogue will take patience, increasingly confident leaderships, and the political will and imagination to look ahead instead of backward.

Obstacles to a Regional Agreement on Nuclear Nonproliferation

A key obstacle to a regional agreement on nuclear nonproliferation in South Asia continues to be the persistent level of tension and consequent distrust between India and Pakistan, arising from popular emotions fed by the memories of partition, three wars, and the unresolved dispute over Kashmir. India's attitudes toward nuclear nonproliferation are also strongly influenced by its security perceptions vis-à-vis China and by its traditional opposition to measures it sees as discriminating against non-nuclear weapons states.

USIA analyses show that a large majority of Indians polled in recent years have said that India should maintain a "nuclear option." In polls since the early 1980's, Pakistanis have also widely backed a Pakistani nuclear weapons program. For both Islamabad and New Delhi, such domestic considerations are a vital factor in their deliberations.

Neither India nor Pakistan has indicated a willingness to give up its nuclear weapons "option" in the near future. India argues that possession of at least an ambiguous nuclear deterrent is seen as a necessary counterweight to potential Chinese and Pakistani threats and as a sine qua non of legitimacy as a world power. Pakistan counters that its nuclear capability and missiles are needed as a means to guarantee national survival. Over the longer term, India and Pakistan will need to redefine their own security requirements so that the perceived need for nuclear capability decreases in a world in which weapons of mass destruction are of decreasing importance. Such an outcome requires continued Indo-Pakistani dialogue of the sort that has just resumed. While the U.S. seeks to facilitate such dialogue, we and other third parties cannot mediate in the absence of political will and the definition of issues in which a third-party role would be helpful. In South Asia, and in India in particular, there remains great sensitivity to perceived U.S. pressure. Our continuing efforts to prevent proliferation in South Asia require sensitivity to regional political realities through diplomacy and global efforts such as the FMCT and the CTBT. Improving relations between the two countries holds the promise of decreasing nuclear tensions in the region.

Dealing successfully with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems in South Asia will require that the U.S. and others take into account both Indian and Pakistani domestic political concerns and regional security threat perceptions, including those extending beyond the two countries themselves. The United States cannot achieve the goal of nuclear nonproliferation in South Asia single-handedly, nor should we treat this as the only issue at hand; the U.S. has other important interests in the region including combating terrorism and drug trafficking and promoting democracy, trade, investment, economic development and regional stability. To achieve our goal of curbing nuclear weapons programs, we must act in concert with our allies, and most importantly, with the participation and cooperation of the governments of both India and Pakistan. Given that South Asia remains a key region in our global efforts to curb development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile delivery systems, it is important to continue to push forward regional and global nonproliferation initiatives.

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