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June 11, 1998


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Japan will lead Friday's offensive against tests

Murali Krishnan in London

Japan is set to take a leading role in tomorrow's G-8 meeting which hopes to stop India and Pakistan from prising open the door to full membership of the nuclear weapons club.

Foreign ministers from the G-8 powers -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia -- meet in London on Friday to agree to a united front against India and Pakistan's nuclear tests.

Among those who are also attending tomorrow's crucial meeting are foreign ministers of South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine --- who have renounced their nuclear options and instead adopted further advancement of nuclear disarmament. Also invited are the ambassadors of the Philippines and China. The ministers will also consider the deteriorating situation in Kosovo.

The tests in both countries have spurred Japan into a barrage of diplomatic offensive against nuclear proliferation. Japan, the only country to suffer an atomic bomb, feels it has a moral obligation to be in the forefront on this issue of opposition to nuclear weapons.

Japan has urged India and Pakistan to join the UN non-proliferation treaties without being recognised as nuclear-armed countries, which has been unequivocally been rejected by India. The established nuclear powers are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

However, India has made its position clear on the eve of the G-8 foreign ministers conclave. A statement issued by the Indian high commission said, "India categorically rejects any suggestions for curtailing our nuclear weapon or missile development programmes. These are decisions to be taken by the Government of India on the basis of its own assessments and national security requirements."

A senior official at the Indian high commission said the unilateral gestures made by India in recent weeks had not been appreciated by those "who claim to speak on behalf of the international community."

Some of these gestures include the institution of a moratorium on nuclear testing, willingness to explore ways and means for formalisation of this undertaking, readiness to engage in negotiations on an FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and develop strict export controls on nuclear and related materials and technologies.

The agenda for tomorrow's meeting is clear. The discussions will aim to build wider international support for the process initiated by the P-5 last week; how to apply international pressure on India and Pakistan to abandon their nuclear arms programme and sign up a global regime against nuclear proliferation; to persuade India and Pakistan to enter into a dialogue on the issues that divide them -- chiefly Kashmir.

The reason why representatives of Brazil and Argentina have been invited is to demonstrate how these two countries, earlier bitter neighbours, have given up their nuclear options and entered into a bilateral agreement on nuclear and related materials. "The confidence building measures they took should be an example to Pakistan and India," said a diplomat.

China may provide some guarantees at tomorrow's meeting that it does not pose any threat in the region to India -- a major reason which led to India's Pokhran II tests.

Japanese Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi has already stated in Tokyo that his government is ready to launch an international forum for "emergency action" on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The planned forum would meet thrice in Japan before making proposals. At the meeting, Japan will tell the participating nations about the emergency action plan.

India's position has been reiterated on several occasions, that it does not expect third party involvement of any nature whatsoever in the process for promoting security and stability in the region.

According to Indian high commission officials, "Any action on the part of the G-8 which does not take our gestures into account is short-sighted and will be counter-productive."

"We would expect a positive response to our initiatives from those who speak for the international community, rather than prescriptive and coercive suggestions which are neither responsible nor constructive."

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