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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 23, February 1998

BJP Manifesto Pledges Openly Pro-Nuclear-Weapons Stance

Campaigning in the Indian General Election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - expected by many to emerge as the biggest single party - has been making clear its unequivocal commitment to Indian possession and development of nuclear weapons. According to reports, the BJP's election manifesto, published on 4 February, pledges to openly introduce nuclear weapons, and accelerate development and deployment of the Agni medium-range ballistic missile.

Pakistan reacted with to the manifesto with wary dismay, a Foreign Minister spokesperson noting (4 February):

"We are studying [the] BJP's election manifesto but we must, at this stage, express our serious concern..." The spokesperson added: "we may...have to review our policy in keeping with the needs for safeguarding our sovereignty and security."

On 7 February, reports referred to comments by US Ambassador Richard Celeste predicting profound concern in Washington if India was to openly declare itself a nuclear-weapon State. Celeste's remarks were denounced by the BJP. Party General Secretary Venkaiah Naidu told reporters:

"The US Ambassador will do well to advise his own government that a policy legitimising nuclear weapons by five States while objecting to other countries amounts to blackmail."

A spokesperson from India's Foreign Ministry stated less harshly that it was "perhaps not advisable" for "foreign diplomats" to "comment at this stage on the individual manifestos of parties."

Reports: India's BJP says India will go nuclear, United Press International, 4 February; Pakistan may alter nuclear policy, United Press International, 4 February; India's BJP criticizes US envoy remarks, United Press International, 7 February.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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