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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 30, September 1998

Clinton Decides Against Visiting India and Pakistan

On 30 September, US officials reported that President Clinton had decided to cancel planned visits to India and Pakistan in November. Although both States have now announced that they hope to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by September 1999 (see Documents and Sources), the US verdict, according to White House spokesperson Mike McCurry, was that "until more progress is achieved we are not going to be able to lift the sanctions that are in place and we are not in a position to strengthen the kind of bilateral ties with both Governments which we would naturally want."

On 28 September, a Congressional panel, composed of senior members of both Houses, convened to consider the general issue of US sanctions, voted to give the President the right to decide to waive sanctions against India and Pakistan for one year - a degree of flexibility requested by the Administration. The move was welcomed by India's Finance Minister, Yashwant Singh, who described it on 29 September as "a very positive development." The same day, speaking in Ottawa, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy made plain his view that declaring a willingness to join the test ban should not trigger a general relaxation of international pressure: "that's just one of the elements," he told reporters, adding:

"We still want a commitment not to weaponize their nuclear capacity, their signing the NPT, and they should join the discussions on fissionable materials controls as well."

On 5 September, India's Defence Minister, Georges Fernandes, insisted that India had no intention of backing away from testing and developing a long-range ballistic missile, building on the Agni intermediate-range system. Fernandes told the Press Trust of India: "Test firing of Agni-II is inevitable... It will be done soon but no date has been finalised." According to reports, the Agni-II is intended to have a range of 1,400 kilometres, nearly twice that of the Agni; some reports, however, speak of a possible maximum range of 2,500 kilometres.

On 23 September, a report in Jane's Intelligence Review suggested that both India and Pakistan might have enough weapons-grade fissile materials to make far more nuclear weapons than previously appreciated. According to the journal, although Pakistan only has one nuclear reactor (a Canadian Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) plant), it might have enough material to make in excess of 100 bombs, "four times the number previously estimated." India has 10 reactors, eight of which are CANDU facilities. Based on new details provided by the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA), the Jane's report concludes:

"Although reactor-grade plutonium is less efficient for nuclear weapons, India's plutonium, as is, could potentially be used to make 455 atomic bombs... This estimate contrasts sharply with the majority view that India can produce from 25 to at most 65 bombs."

Reports: India to test longer-range Agni missile, Xinhua, 5 September; India, Pakistan nuclear potential huge - Jane's, Reuters, 23 September; US panel revises India, Pakistan sanctions, Reuters, 28 September; India welcomes, Canada opposes sanctions waiver, Reuters, 29 September; Clinton cancels plan to visit India and Pakistan, Reuters, 30 September.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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