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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 11, December 1996

China seeks to reassure India on nuclear exports as India halts missile project

The tensions customary to relations between China and India appeared to ease in late November and early December as the two States signed an accord (29 November) on mutual reductions of armed forces and weaponry deployed on the border between them. A few days later (5 December), India announced that it would be proceeding with the development of its successfully tested Agni (Fire) medium-range missile, which is thought be capable of being armed with a nuclear warhead, and whose range encompasses part of China, including Beijing (and all of Pakistan). However, in a Defence Ministry statement, India made clear that this decision could be reversed:

"Agni is a re-entry technology demonstration project which has been successfully completed and all the objectives have been met... [The] Agni project did not envisage development of a missile system. ... The decision to develop and produce a missile system based on Agni technology, however, can be taken at the appropriate time consistent with the prevailing threat perception and global or regional security environment."

The last test of a missile, which has a range of 2,500 km (1,500 miles), was in 1994.

China was at pains to stress that the moves did not downgrade the importance it attached to relations with Pakistan, including peaceful nuclear cooperation. Speaking in Islamabad on 1 December, at the start of a State visit by President Jiang Zemin, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Shen Guofang, stated:

"China and Pakistan enjoy good cooperation in the utilization of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes...and our cooperation in this regard will continue.

Speaking in New Delhi on 29 November, at the signing of the border forces reduction pact, Shen offered this general reassurance:

"I reiterate the Chinese government is responsible toward [its] weapons transfer[s]... China has not, does not and will not transfer or sell nuclear technology or nuclear weapons to any region or country... It is not in the interests of China to sell advanced weapons to its immediate neighbours..."

Report: China makes nuclear pledge as it signs border deal with India, Agence France-Presse International News, 29 November; Chinese vow to continue nuclear aid to Pakistan, AP Datastream International News Wire, 1 December; US urges China to call off nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, AP Datastream Washington News Wire, 2 December; China to supply nuclear power plant to Pakistan, Kyodo News Service, 5 December; India says no plans to build intermediate missile, Reuter News Reports, 5 December; India shelves intermediate-range Agni missile, Reuter News Reports, 5 December; India suspends development of missile that could reach China, AP Datastream International News Wire, 6 December.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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