UPSC MAINS 2019 : CTBTO invites India to be an observer at meetings

CTBTO invites India to be an observer at meetings


Topic: CTBTO invites India to be an observer at meetings

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: International Affairs



The executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), LassinaZerbo, has invited India to be an observer in the CTBT.

CTBTO invites India to be an observer at meetings

What is CTBT?

The CTBT stands for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It is a multi-governmental treaty the signatories of which agree to ban nuclear explosions in every environment whether for civilian or military objectives.


About CTBT:

  • 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.
  • In a renewed effort, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) has offered India an ‘Observer’ status and access to state-of-art International Monitoring System (IMS) data.
  • The executive secretary of CTBO opines that India should attend the meeting; see how CTBTO works and takes the time needed in making the decision.
  • The IMS uses four technologies to support the CTBT –
    • Seismological:There will be 50 primary and 120 auxiliary seismic stations to monitor shockwaves in the earth that could be caused by a nuclear test.
    • Radionuclide:Eighty stations worldwide will measure the atmosphere for radioactive particles. Radionuclide evidence can confirm that a nuclear explosion has occurred, if there is a leak.
    • Hydroacoustic:There will be 11 hydroacoustic stations listening for sound waves traveling through the oceans that could be caused by a nuclear test explosion.
    • Infrasound:When complete, 60 stations on the earth’s surface will be able to detect ultra-low frequency sound waves caused by large explosions; these sound waves are inaudible to the human ear.


India and 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.


Benefits of becoming an Observer:

  • According to the executive secretary of CTBTO, India can benefit immensely from becoming a CTBTO Observer as the organisation setting has changed a lot over the years.
  • India will have access to the data available which was traditionally not made available.
  • CTBTO had task leader for data confidentiality, which does not exist anymore.
  • For instance, the virtual Data Exploitation Centre (vDEC) provides scientists access to IMS data to conduct research and to publish new findings.
  • The strong relationship between the scientific and technological community and the CTBTO helps ensure that the IMS remains at the forefront of technological innovation and that no nuclear explosion goes undetected.
  • It is an established fact that IMS, consisting of 337 facilities worldwide, is the most sophisticated system. India has a lot to gain from it.
  • Being an observer would give India access to data from the IMS — a network which when complete will consist of 337 facilities (321 monitoring stations and 16 radionuclide labs) located in 89 countries.
  • This system can detect even small nuclear explosions using seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound and radionuclide technology.


 Sample Question:

Signing comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty (CTBT) today is advantageous to India. Critically examine the statement.(150 Words)



CTBTO invites India to be an observer at meetings infograph