The Clinton administration says it is confident a global ban on nuclear testing can be reached despite objections by India that the treaty now being negotiated clearly favors the five declared nuclear powers.
"We expect to be successful," State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said as negotiators in Geneva worked to beat a June 28 deadline for final agreement. The administration regards completion of a test ban treaty as one of its highest foreign policy priorities.Ambassador Arundhati Ghose, head of the Indian delegation, called the proposed treaty "weak and woefully inadequate" and said India won't accept it unless the five declared nuclear powers commit to destroying their arsenals.
She noted that the draft would only ban testing while allowing advanced countries to continue refining nuclear weapons with computers and other technology.
Iran, which often plays a key role in arms negotiations, said it was backing India.
Burns expressed regret about the Indian statement but noted that negotiations often go down to the wire before a breakthrough is achieved.
Responding to India's complaints about existing nuclear powers retaining their weaponry, Burns noted that START II, once ratified, will bring down the level of nuclear warheads in U.S. and Russian arsenals to roughly 6,500 from well over 20,000 just a couple of years ago.
He said the proposed treaty also constrains the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons.
Jack Mendelsohn, of the Arms Control Association, said India's stance could be a problem if that country is made one of the states whose ratification is required to bring a test ban treaty into force.
One way around that problem is to provide for a waiver that would allow the treaty to take effect after a certain period of time without India, Meldelsohn said.
There are five declared nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Three others, India, Pakistan and Israel, are widely believed to be capable of joining the nuclear club.
Britain is insisting that all eight would have to ratify, but other nations believe a simple majority would suffice.