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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 35, March 1999

South Asian Nuclear Diplomacy

In the last issue Disarmament Diplomacy reproduced the text of the 'Lahore Declaration,' signed by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on 21 February and aimed both at a general stabilisation of strategic relations between the two countries in the turbulent wake of their May 1998 nuclear tests, and at the elaboration of specific measures and procedures for "reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons..." On 22 February, the development was warmly welcomed in a statement issued by President Clinton:

"I welcome the successful meeting over the weekend... I commend the two Prime Ministers for demonstrating courage and leadership by coming together and addressing difficult issues that have long divided their countries.

The two leaders committed to intensifying their efforts on key matters, including: containing their competition in nuclear arms; preventing nuclear or conventional conflict between them; resolving territorial disputes including Jammu and Kashmir; refraining from interfering in each other's internal affairs; fighting terrorism; promoting political freedom and human rights; and working together to improve the lives of their citizens through economic growth.

South Asia - and, indeed, the entire world - will benefit if India and Pakistan promptly turn these commitments into concrete progress. We will continue our own efforts to work with India and Pakistan to promote progress in the region."

The US seems to be reasonably confident that India and Pakistan will sign the Comprehensive Test ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999, probably before a meeting of signatory States in September. For their part, India and Pakistan seem confident that sanctions against them, imposed after the tests but already partially relaxed, will be lifted to politically facilitate their accession to the CTBT. Apparently confirming movement in this direction, on 18 February the World Bank approved a loan of $210 million for energy projects in the Andhra Pradesh in southern India.

In addition to joining the test ban, the US is hoping that both States will draw up stringent export controls on nuclear and dual-use technology and equipment. On 13 March, Tariq Altaf, a spokesperson from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, announced that Pakistan had affected amendments to its existing regulations; henceforth, approval from the Atomic Energy Commission would be required in order to trigger the export of "nuclear substances, radioactive material... [and] equipment used for the production, use or application of nuclear energy, including generation of electricity."

On 11 March, Pakistan's President, Rafiq Tara, delivering his annual address to Parliament, waxed lyrical about the events of last May: "I pay tribute to the scientists, the architects of the atomic program, whose genius, hard labour and perseverance made this feat possible... The decision [to test] constitutes a golden page in our history."

In Moscow on 12 March, US Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth discussed the situation in South Asia with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin. After the meeting, they issued a joint statement:

"The US and Russia reaffirm their common interests in strengthening peace and security in South Asia.

They welcome the 20-21 February meetings of [Sharif and Vajpayee]...and their efforts that produced the Lahore Declaration.

The US and Russia support further meetings of Indian and Pakistani officials, including the Prime Ministers, and hope that the momentum will continue to build to improve Indo-Pakistani relations.

The US and Russia acknowledge progress made by India and Pakistan toward responding to the calls issued by the P-5 and G-8 and other members of the world community in the wake of last year's nuclear tests. More actions are needed to be taken, however, and the US and Russia reiterate calls for India and Pakistan to take additional steps as articulated by the P-5 and G-8."

Reports: World Bank approves $210 mln loan for Indian State, Reuters, 18 February; World Bank approves loan for India, Associated Press, 19 February; Text - Clinton welcomes meting between Vajpayee and Sharif, United States Information Service, 23 February; Pakistan Pres. touts nuclear status, Associated Press, 11 March; Transcript - Inderfurth 3/12 remarks on Afghanistan, South Asia, United States Information Service, 12 March; Pakistan tightens nuclear exports, Associated Press, 13 March.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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