Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty – CTBT

India’s commitment to a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing dates back to 1954 when Jawaharlal Nehru called for a “standstill agreement” whereby testing of all nuclear weapons was to be immediately suspended, pending an agreement on their complete prohibition. It was again at India’s initiative that the item “Suspension of Nuclear and Thermo-Nuclear Tests” was included in the agenda of the UN in 1959.

During the course of the negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) Geneva on the CTBT, India put forward a number of proposals consistent with the mandate adopted by the CD in 1994. These proposals were aimed at ensuring that the CTBT would be truly comprehensive and would be part of the step-by-step process of eliminating all nuclear weapons. However, these proposals were regrettably ignored and instead, Article XIV on Entry. Into Force requiring India to join the treaty before it became operational was adopted in violation of basic treaty law. India was thus forced to declare its opposition to the CTBT as it emerged.

After concluding a series of tests on May13, 1998, India immediately announced a voluntary moratorium on further underground nuclear test explosions. In announcing this moratorium, India accepted the core obligation of a test ban and also addressed the general wish of the international community. India also announced its willingness to move towards a de jure formalization of the voluntary undertaking. India is now engaged in discussions with key interlocutors on a range of issues, including the CTBT. India is prepared to bring these discussions to a successful conclusion, so that the entry into force of the CTBT is not delayed beyond September 1999. For the successful conclusion of talks, creation of a positive environment by India’s interlocutors is a necessary ingredient. India expects that other countries, as indicated in Article XIV of the CTBT, will adhere to this Treaty without conditions.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—described as the “longest sought and hardest fought for arms control treaty in history”—was opened for signature in September 1996. The CTBT obligates countries that sign and ratify “not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.” It provides for an extensive verification regime including an International Monitoring System (IMS) to detect nuclear explosions, a global infrastructure for satellite communications from IMS stations to an International Data Center (IDC) that processes and distributes data to State Parties, and for on-site inspections, which may be requested by any State Party to determine whether suspected cheating has occurred. To implement these verification arrangements, the treaty establishes a Comprehensive Test Ban Organization (CTBTO) located in Vienna.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Opened for signature

September 10, 1996 in New York

Entered into force

Not Yet In Force

Conditions for entry into force

The treaty will enter into force 180 days after it is ratified by all of the following 44 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Romania, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Vietnam.


144, including 35 of the 44 countries (as of 1 February 2008)

To enter into force, the 44 countries that in 1996 possessed nuclear research or power reactors must ratify the CTBT. At present, 41 of these 44 countries have signed the treaty but only 31 have ratified. Non-signatories include India, North Korea, and Pakistan. The United States, which led the effort to conclude a CTBT and was the first to sign the treaty is, along with China, among those who have signed but not ratified. In 1999, the U.S. Senate, whose advice and consent is required for international treaties to become valid and binding, voted not to give its consent to ratify. Beside partisan considerations, this was prompted by concerns with the ability of the United States to maintain the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, and with the adequacy of the treaty’s verification provisions to detect low-yield tests. The current administration, which in general is skeptical of the value of arms control treaties as a means of enhancing U.S. national security has said that it will not seek Senate reconsideration of the treaty. However, it supports the continuation by all states of the voluntary testing moratorium that is in place, as well as maintaining and completing the IMS, which is seen as value added to U.S. national technical means of detection. But the administration does not support funding for or participation in on-site inspection related activities that would be used as part of challenge inspections after the treaty entered into force.

Why is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty important?

The CTBT has been seen as an essential step toward nuclear disarmament for over four decades. It bans all nuclear tests, anytime, anywhere and comprehensively. Without the CTBT, the United States, Russia, China, France the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan are not prohibited from conducting further underground test explosions. The effort to establish an international norm against nuclear testing must not be abandoned after the enormous effort on the part of governments and NGOs, especially when the ratifications of only thirteen states is required for Entry Into Force.

The Treaty is intended to stop the qualitative nuclear arms race. The CTBT does not prohibit research on nuclear weapons, including subcritical tests. But it is very difficult, if not impossible, to develop new nuclear weapons without nuclear test explosions. This explains why all Nuclear Weapons States have resisted such a treaty for over four decades. Now that an agreement on the test ban has been reached and Entry Into Force is within reach, the effort to establish an international norm against nuclear testing must be actively pursued. Should the CTBT not enter into force, all the enormous effort on the part of governments and NGOs would be lost.

The CTBT will prevent further horrendous health and environmental damage caused by nuclear test explosions once and for all.

The CTBTO (the organization of the CTBT and the Secretariat of the Conferences) is already making great strides to establish a wide-ranging monitoring and verification system, including an International Monitoring System and an International Data Centre, which together with national technical means and ten of thousands of civilian monitoring stations, will detect and deter would-be testers, and therefore, will build confidence between all nations that nuclear testing has stopped.

Entry into Force of the CTBT:

The Entry Into Force (EIF) Conference is expected to be an opportunity for:

  • Announcing ratifications and signatures;
  • Calling on those states that have not yet signed or ratified the CTBT to join the international consensus to end nuclear testing;
  • Urging states with active nuclear weapon research programmes and test sites to take actions that would reinforce the CTBT and support its goals, such as refraining from activities at test sites that might be construed as CTBT violations, halting research, development and production of nuclear warheads based on modifications of existing designs, that give them new military capabilities;
  • Examining ways and means of removing obstacles which delay Entry Into Force;
  • Discussing and agreeing on specific measures to convince the last holdout states to support the test ban;
  • Support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation in Vienna that has made significant progress in setting up the International Monitoring System and International Data Center, so that the CTBT’s verification system is ready by the time the treaty enters into force;
  • Condemning any future testing; and,
  • Calling upon governments, businesses and peoples to take decisive action in reaction to any future testing.