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|July 22, 1998||
Vajpayee's assurance on CTBT seen as a sign of India's unbending stand
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's assurance in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour on Wednesday that India had the inherent strength to face the post-Pokhran sanctions has assumed significance. Minister of State for External Affairs Vasundhara Raje also stated, for the nth time, that India would not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in its present form.
Observers said the moves point to India's keenness on maintaining a consistent stand on security matters, ''forward movements'' in the just-concluded Indo-US (Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott) talks notwithstanding.
The talks may have been ''constructive'', but the South Asian security scenario remains unchanged, Asia-watchers said.
But the talks, they conceded, have helped keep communication channels between New Delhi and Washington open, a positive development in itself.
Vajpayee's special emissary Jaswant Singh, the Planning Commission's deputy chairman, will meet US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Manila next week. Given Vajpayee's statement, it is certain that Singh will reiterate India's position on the CTBT and other security aspects. It remains to be seen if the US has anything up its sleeve to make New Delhi rethink its strategy.
Meanwhile, news has already filtered in from Islamabad that Pakistan will raise the Kashmir issue during the Colombo session of the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation. Since India's stance for long has been that Kashmir is a bilateral issue, Pakistan may be heard out, but India would reject a third-party mediatory role, sources at the ministry of external affairs said.
They further said that by demanding such mediation, Islamabad has exposed its designs on the valley, something India will seek to frustrate.
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