India's Nuclear Moratorium 'Saves Face' for Clinton

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - The nuclear moratorium instituted by India for the first time in writing, analysts said Sunday, was merely a face saver for US President Bill Clinton since he had failed to convince New Delhi to commit to the global Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

India could not have reneged on the commitment of nuclear moratorium it had made to the international community.
Clinton, meanwhile, failed to achieve any major breakthrough in the Middle East peace process, and the two new nuclear weapon states have not signed the CTBT, defense analyst Ram Prakash said.

In an election year, Prakash said such little gestures could go a long way in gaining political mileage. It is primarily an attempt to show a failure as an achievement, he said.

In a joint statement with the United States, India reaffirmed that, subject to its supreme national interests, ''it will continue a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing until the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty takes effect."

Karl Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, said India's affirmation of its moratorium was a strong sign of its sincerity over its self-imposed nuclear test ban.

"I think this will be the first time we have spelled out in a statement with the Indian government regarding its intention to continue its voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests until CTBT comes into effect. This is a new element. They have reaffirmed it. They have said it in other ways in the past," Inderfurth said.

India's status in the international community, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Sunday, changed after the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests, and there is now a "repositioning of India in global and regional affairs."

Explaining New Delhi's decision to go nuclear, Vajpayee said his government realized that no one would come to its rescue if the country was attacked by nuclear weapons.

Therefore, to safeguard India's security interests, the Indian government decided to go nuclear, not to attack any other country but to enhance its self-defense, Vajpayee added.

A top Indian scientist warned New Delhi about signing the CTBT in haste. The former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, PK Iyengar, said the country needed to test more hydrogen and neutron bombs before signing the CTBT.

Iyengar disputed the claims by the government that the May 1998 nuclear tests generated sufficient data for a nuclear weapons production program.

India has tested five fission or atomic bombs (including Pokhran- I) and one fusion or hydrogen bomb so far.

Iyengar said, on the basis of just one hydrogen bomb test, how could the country claim that it had sufficient data for a nuclear weapons program. Many more tests will be needed to try out different designs and to perfect a few of them.

If India wanted to develop a credible minimum nuclear deterrent, it could not sign the CTBT, he cautioned.

Scientific data indicated that the core of the Indian hydrogen bomb had burned only partially during the test. The bomb design included two components - a boosted fission device (a small atomic bomb) that triggered the secondary core of the hydrogen or fusion bomb. The boosted fission device released about 20 kilotons (kt) of energy that triggered the fusion core that produced another 20 kt, yielding a total of about 40 kt. This indicated that only about 400 grams of the fusion device had burned.

"There result was only a partial burning. I doubt if a complete burn wave was established," Iyengar said, adding that larger megaton devices could not be made with such partial-burn type devices. India needed to test more hydrogen and neutron bombs with complete burning of the core before it signed the CTBT.

"We cannot stop here. We must continue testing with improved designs so that there is a total burn and the fusion yield is higher,'' he said.

"Many more tests will be needed to try out different designs like the boosted-fission device, the two-stage fusion device and the neutron bomb which India is yet to test,'' he said.

Iyengar added that, even if the designs had been perfected, India must have a delivery system that could be used by the Army. It also needed to address the issue of a safe and reliable command and control system before signing the CTBT.

Non-proliferation and CTBT, he said, would become "meaningless'' with the development of future fourth-generation nuclear weapons that did away with enriched uranium or plutonium using laser beams to replace the atomic bomb trigger.

Despite this positive gesture, Washington said it would not lift a prohibition against India on direct military sales or financing among other sanctions put in place after the 1998 tests until New Delhi signs the CTBT.