Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser (on Foreign Affairs) of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has said the his country is ready to sign an agreement with India to ban nuclear testing.
Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad over the weekend, the senior Pak official said that the Nawaz Sharif administration decided to transform its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing into the bilateral agreement with India. He expressed hope that the proposed agreement would help the two neighbouring South Asian countries maintain peace and stability in the region.
Aziz also linked Islamabad’s NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership bid to stability in South Asia, saying: “Pakistan has consistently supported the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). We voted in favour of the treaty when it was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 1996. We have announced a unilateral moratorium on further nuclear testing. Pakistan is ready to consider the transformation of its unilateral moratorium into the bilateral agreement with India on banning nuclear testing.”
In the presence of Pak Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria, Aziz told the press: “The issue of NSG membership cannot be separated from the consideration of strategic stability in the region. In 2008, the NSG missed an opportunity to promote simultaneous adherence to non-proliferation benchmarks by Pakistan and India, as a part of a package deal, which would have promoted restraint and stability in the region.”
The Pak PM’s adviser argued that Islamabad’s application for NSG was based on “our desire to strengthen global non-proliferation regimes and for the need for strategic stability and level-playing field in South Asia”. At the same time, he assured the international community that Pakistan would remain committed not to transferring nuclear weapons to other states or assisting others to acquire nuclear weapons.
However, India has made no comment on Aziz’s proposal. According to sources close to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi will issue a statement only after receiving official documents from Islamabad.
The CTBT, a multilateral treaty that envisages signatories agreeing to ban all nuclear explosions for military or civilian purposes, has been signed by 183 countries. The Treaty requires ratification by all 44 states listed in the annex to enter into force. Although the treaty is ratified by 36 countries (including Russia, the UK and France), five signatories (China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the US) are yet to ratify CTBT. India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it yet. Despite being the first nation in the world to call for a CTBT and taking part in negotiations in Geneva, India expressed discontent with the final draft and refused to sign the Treaty. Pakistan initially voted in favour of the CTBT in 1996, but subsequently refused to ratify the agreement.