February 20, 2020
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The Eight's Caveat

The G-8 focus on South Asia and the unfinished CTBT agenda

The Eight's Caveat

THE June Summit of the Eight in Denver was unique in many ways. For the first time ever, political and foreign policy issues dominated instead of the usual economic themes. For the first time, Russia was an integral part of the summit, along with the previous Group of Seven countries (US, the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy, with the European Union as observer). For the first time, too, the communique had a paragraph on South Asia.

The paragraph in question—No 79 in the 18-page communique—was succinct. It said: "We welcome the emerging high-level dialogue between India and Pakistan. We encourage both countries to bring their activities into conformity with international non-proliferation norms. Consistent with our support for the CTBT's early entry into force, we encourage both countries to adhere to that treaty."

The inclusion of South Asia was something of a surprise to the assembled world press, 5,000 of whom were present at the summit. Outlook spoke to three foreign policy experts or "sherpas" who accompanied the heads of state, as well as to other delegates. According to a British delegate, it was the US—still smarting from India's refusal to sign the CTBT—that proposed the language for the paragraph on South Asia. The UK was the first to agree, he said. He added that the sentence about welcoming the high-level dialogue between India and Pakistan was an important acknowledgment that the two nations were serious about solving their problems amicably.

Asked why India and Pakistan were being encouraged to adhere to the CTBT when neither country had signed it, the delegate quipped: "The communique is trying to send a message to both countries that we are in earnest about non-proliferation." A US delegate added: "It would be to the considerable advantage of both countries if they signed on to existing treaties and stopped being the odd men out." He hastened to add that Pakistan was being held up by India's 'stubborn refusal' to sign the CTBT.

A Japanese delegate—contacted to find out how much South Asia figured in the behind-the-scenes discussions—admitted that the exchanges on South Asia had become heated, with some countries, including Japan, trying to "temper the tone".

South Asia also figured in President Clinton's concluding press conference. An American journalist wanted to know why he wanted to extend most-favoured nation status to China when the latter was selling missiles to Pakistan, according to press reports quoting US intelligence sources.

In response, Clinton said he could not comment on "alleged intelligence reports". He added: "When we had clear evidence that China was providing ring magnets to Pakistan, we dealt with them and were satisfied" that no further sales would take place and Beijing would adhere to Missile Technology Control Regime norms. Asserting that he "will not walk away from these issues," Clinton said the US would take action when there were violations of international and US non-proliferation norms.

What is interesting about this exchange is that the US has never before publicly admitted the truth about intelligence leaks concerning China's alleged sales of nuclear components to Pakistan, as reported in the Washington Times, Washington Post, New York Times and, now, Time magazine. The US delegation admitted to some embarrassment because the latest Time carried an article that said the White House and State Department ignored a CIA report that China helped Pakistan construct a factory to manufacture medium-range ballistic missiles.

According to the article, US intelligence services had discovered the missile factory near Rawalpindi in late 1995 and concluded that not only was Beijing selling missiles to Islamabad, but also helping Islamabad build a facility to manufacture them. The CIA and other agencies' conclusions were ignored for fear of jeopardising US ties with China.

On summit-eve, the Denver Post carried a provocative news analysis, proposing that before long China and India—on the basis of the strength of their economies—would need to be included in the summit. When one American 'sherpa' was asked whether such a proposal could be acceptable, he replied: "I don't see it coming soon. China has a huge economy...but it has other problems. As for India, I don't think its membership is viable at this point."

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