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WASHINGTON: Pakistan reiterated its commitment to nuclear test moratorium at a key ministerial meeting in Vienna as India chose to stay away from the venue, a document shared with Dawn showed.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) held a ministerial meeting in Vienna on Monday, marking 20 years since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature in 1996. The countries that have still to ratify the treaty were invited to join member states and the CTBTO to discuss the future of CTBT.

At the conference, participants pledged to take further steps towards making test ban a binding reality but India and North Korea opted to stay out.

Ending discriminatory practices will help strengthen non-proliferation regime, says Pakistani envoy

Pakistan’s Ambassador in Vienna, Ayesha Riaz, delivered a statement, affirming Pakistan’s stance that despite being a non-signatory to the treaty it supported the objective and purpose of the meeting by maintaining a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing. Ambassador Riaz assured the international community that Pakistan would not be the first to resume nuclear testing in its region.

A leaf from history: Target: Pakistani nukes

Ms Riaz also said that ending discriminatory practices would go a long way in strengthening global non-proliferation regime, including the CTBT. She pointed out that a golden opportunity was missed in 2008 to integrate CTBT as a non-proliferation benchmark while granting a country-specific waiver to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines.

The opportunity was missed because the United States used its influence to get an exemption for India and is now backing New Delhi’s bid to join the NSG without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Ambassador Riaz called for a non-discriminatory and criteria-based approach for integrating and mainstreaming states outside the non-proliferation instruments. The CTBT bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground.

The non-signatory states are also called Annex 2 countries and include 44 states that participated in the negotiation for the CTBT from 1994 to 1996 and possessed nuclear power or research reactors at the time.

Key among the Annex 2 states that have signed but not ratified the treaty yet is the United States where the Congress has not yet approved ratification. Others in the eight Annex 2 states that have yet to ratify the treaty include China, Egypt, Iran and Israel.

Only North Korea, India, and Pakistan have not signed the treaty among the Annex 2 states.

The treaty will come into force only with the signature and ratification of the Annex 2 states of the treaty, 180 days after they have all deposited their instruments of ratification.

The ministerial meeting in Vienna features countries that still attach importance to the value of the test ban treaty.

US Undersecretary Rose Gottemoeller represented the United States at Monday’s meeting and read out a message from President Barack Obama.

Mr Obama noted that a legally binding prohibition on nuclear weapon tests or any other nuclear explosions was a meaningful step towards nuclear disarmament — a goal achievable once the CTBT enters into force.

Acknowledging that the United States had itself not ratified the treaty, Ms Gottemoeller said the US was working very hard towards that objective.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2016