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June 3, 1999
Government believes nukes for Pak navy is just bluster
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The report that Pakistan will equip its navy with nuclear weapons has not flustered Indian defence ministry officials because they believe Islamabad does not have the wherewithal for the purpose, though it has been asking staunch ally China for a nuclear submarine.
The Voice of Russia reported yesterday that a Pakistani naval spokesman in Karachi had asserted that his country's navy would soon induct nuclear weapons.
Reacting to the report, a defence ministry official said Pakistan lacks the capacity to translate its intention into action, and the assertion had been made to try and unnerve India.
But India has been monitoring the situation and has reason to believe that Pakistan is not in a position right now to induct nuclear weapons into its navy.
The official said Islamabad has been seeking a nuclear submarine from China, but so far Beijing has shown no inclination to oblige.
All the same, the Indian Navy has been put on alert following the outbreak of the conflict in Kargil and INS Viraat, its only aircraft carrier, has been brought out for a refit.
But he emphasised that the state of alert is only meant to counter Pakistan's apparently aggressive intentions and discounted the possibility of an Indo-Pak nuclear confrontation, either by naval, land or air forces.
Meanwhile, the external affairs ministry declined to comment on a report in the Pakistani media that Islamabad is planning a diplomatic coup by sending Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa, the captured Indian Air Force pilot, back with Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz when he visits New Delhi, probably next week.
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