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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 18, September 1997

Pakistan and Indian Prime Ministers Adamant on Right to Option of Nuclear Defence

In early September, the Prime Ministers of India - I. K. Gujral - and Pakistan - Nawaz Sharif - both restated the deep commitment of their governments to maintaining a nuclear weapons capability. Indeed, on 6 September, in a speech in Lahore to mark 'Defence Day', Sharif stated: "I want to tell you that the matter of nuclear capability has now become an old story, and we possess much more to defend ourselves." The issue of the nuclear option, Sharif added, was "not debatable." Sharif's speech drew a quick and concerned response from Russia's Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who stated in Moscow on 9 September: "Russia's reaction to this news is not very good. It sets one thinking." The same day, Pakistan's Embassy in Moscow issued a statement stressing that Pakistan's nuclear programme was concerned "exclusively" with "peaceful purposes."

On 8 September, Prime Minister Gujral, speaking in New Delhi at an international meeting organised by India 's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), stated that the nuclear option would be kept open to guard against "unforeseen circumstances". Gujral added:

"India has the capacity to make nuclear weapons but it does not want to make them. The only test which it has done [in 1974] has been left far behind..."

Editor's note: On 29 August, India's Defence Minister, Singh Yadav, announced that India would begin production of a new, short-range surface-to-air missile, the Trishul (Trident), towards the end of 1998. According to reports, the missile - which was apparently test-fired 35 times - will be deployed in all of India's armed forces.

Reports: India to manufacture short-range missile next year, Xinhua News Service, 29 August; India ready to use advanced missiles - defence minister, Itar-Tass, 29 August; Pakistan defends right to get nukes, Associated Press, 6 September; India will keep N-option open, The Hindu, 8 September; Russia concerned by Pakistan nukes, UPI, 9 September.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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