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July 10, 1998


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PM rules out unconditional signing of CTBT

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today unequivocally asserted that India was against signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty unconditionally and declared that New Delhi would not conduct any more nuclear tests and was willing to convert its voluntary moratorium into a de jure obligation.

Replying to the debate on the working of the external affairs ministry in the Rajya Sabha, Vajpayee said the time had come for India and Pakistan as nuclear weapons states to conclude a ''no first use'' agreement and call upon nuclear weapons states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals in a time-bound framework.

The prime minister wondered why the big powers were amassing nuclear weapons and against whom were they to be used.

Vajpayee said India was prepared to talk on the CTBT and participate in the Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in Geneva. ''However, nobody should feel that we are ready to participate because we are weak.''

On Indo-Pak relations, the prime minister said India was prepared for a bilateral dialogue with its neighbour without third party mediation to resolve all outstanding issues.

''Where is the tension (in Indo-Pak relations)... Firing on the border has always been there. India and Pakistan have to live together. We can't change the geography and will have to live like good neighbours,'' he added.

He was hopeful that his coming meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief in Colombo on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation summit later this month would be fruitful.

On China, the prime minister said India wanted to normalise relations with Beijing even as the Sino-Indian border remained peaceful and stable. India was keen that the border issue between the two countries be resolved soon.

On the recent controversial statements of Defence Minister George Fernandes on China, the prime minister said the minister had already given clarifications in this regard. But he was of the view that airing of personal views on such issues in public was not essential.

Referring to the sanctions imposed by certain countries in the wake of India's nuclear tests, Vajpayee said the country was ready to face the challenge and called upon all political parties to co-operate with the government in this effort.

He said the government would take the Opposition into confidence on the steps to be taken to tackle the situation arising from the sanctions.

Explaining the reasons for India's nuclear tests, the prime minister said the sole reason was to protect the security interests of the country following increasing militarisation of the region.

Acquiring of nuclear capability by India was not aimed against anybody, he said, adding that ''our nuclear programme is a result of indigenous research without procuring any equipment from anywhere''.

In an apparent reference to Pakistan having clandestinely procured nuclear weapons, the prime minister said, ''We have to be careful about the intentions of those who have weaponised themselves in such a manner.''

Categorically ruling out any third party mediation in the Indo-Pak dialogue, Vajpayee said India stood for the solution of bilateral problems to be solved under the Simla accord.

The prime minister said he had written to Nawaz Sharief that they could meet at Colombo during the SAARC summit later this month

He said while India was thankful for the concerns expressed by some countries for maintaining good Indo-Pak relations, India would prefer to settle the problems bilaterally.

Stating that India always wanted to have best of relationships with its neighbours, Vajpayee recalled the visits of President K R Narayanan to Nepal and that of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi. There was a very good and useful exchange of thoughts about regional cooperation during her visit.

Declaring that foreign affairs of the country were always guided by consensus, the prime minister decried some efforts to isolate India on the grounds that there was 'tension' in the area. "Where is the tension? It is not fair," he remarked.

He said the previous government headed by I K Gujral had held talks with Pakistan and evolved a formula at Dhaka for future discussions. But regretted that cooperation was lacking on the part of Pakistan.

He said there was exchange of fire between India and Pakistan and that had been going on even during the previous governments. It could be overcome through meaningful talks.

Recalling the visit of Maldives President and Indian foreign secretary to Bangladesh, the prime minister said India believed in self-reliance and to be able to defend its borders and contributing to world peace.

The prime minister said it was natural and necessary that the members of the house took interest in national security and its relations with its neighbours.


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