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British Policy
South Asia
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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 36, April 1999

Missile Tests Dent Non-Proliferation Hopes in South Asia

Hopes of preventing a nuclear arms race in South Asia - the spectre looming since the May 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan - received a serious setback in mid-April with the test-firing of nuclear-capable missiles by both States. See Documents and Sources for details, statements and reaction.

Political confusion has been added to the deteriorating situation by the fall of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee following a one-vote defeat (270-269) in a no-confidence vote on 17 April. By late April, no successor Administration had been formed and the prospect of a third General Election in as many years was apparently growing. See this issue for an analysis by Giri Deshingkar of the implications of the political uncertainty for Indian nuclear and non-proliferation policy in the coming months.

On 23 March, as part of National Day celebrations in Islamabad, Pakistan for the first time paraded its two nuclear-capable missiles, the Ghauri and the Shaheen. In a strident speech, President Rafiq Tarar enthused:

"With the grace of Allah Almighty, Pakistan is now an atomic power. To achieve this status, we have been through a long journey. ... [A]n enemy is sitting on our borders ready to pounce...[but] after conducting the nuclear tests, our defences have become invincible. We have become an impregnable nation... Our enemies cannot even look at us with evil intention in their eyes - we will gouge out any evil eye cast toward our country."

Reports: Pakistan displays nuclear-capable missile, Reuters, 23 March; Pakistan displays latest missiles, Associated Press, 23 March.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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