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|May 23, 1998||
Sharief accuses India of nuclear blackmail
Accusing India of nuclear blackmail and saying that Pakistan will not be deterred from nuclear testing by threats of sanctions, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief warned the West today that its feeble response has emboldened New Delhi to greater belligerence.
However, Sharief, in his first press conference since India's nuclear tests, gave no indication of whether Pakistan would test a nuclear device of its own.
Sharief railed against the complacency of the industrialised nations, in particular Russia and France, who refused to impose sanctions against India.
Pakistan's warnings that India was moving toward nuclear development was ignored by the industrialised world and Sharief said he feared the West was ignoring the latest signs of a possible confrontation on the Asian subcontinent.
''Overt Indian aggression has upset the balance of power in the region and emboldened India to make a naked assertion of hostile intentions toward Pakistan,'' Sharief said. ''Pakistan has to contend with Indian threats which may materialise any moment.''
But so far Pakistan has neither seen nor heard anything from Western leaders to convince it that its security will be safeguarded. US President Bill Clinton has telephoned Sharief three times since India conducted five nuclear tests last week.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair also telephoned Sharief urging restraint.
There have been threats of sanctions should Pakistan follow India's lead, but Sharief said Pakistan was not worried.
''Threats of sanctions do not rattle us, we have learned to live with these punitive measures,'' said Sharief. Pakistan has been living with sanctions by Washington since 1990 when the US cut off all military and humanitarian aid to this mostly Muslim nation, because it had developed a nuclear weapon.
Pakistan had hoped for a strong reaction from the industrialised world in the form of security guarantees against an aggressive and nuclear-capable India, he said.
But so far, they haven't received any guarantees and the reason why, he said, ''is a question I need to know the answer to.''
''The balance of power in the region has been violently tilted... Our security cannot be ignored,'' he said.
In New Delhi, the Indian government today downplayed Sharief's aggressive stand against New Delhi on the nuclear issue, saying that India "is not in the habit of making misadventures".
Talking to newsmen, Pramod Mahajan, the prime minister's political advisor, said India is a peace loving country and no one should be afraid of it. ''We want the best of relations with our neighbours, particularly Pakistan and China."
Reacting to Sharief's speech, Mahajan said it was baseless. "We have time and again stated our intentions of forging friendly ties with our neighbours," he added.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has stated during his visit to Pokhran -- the site of the nuclear tests -- that his government will favourably respond to Pakistan's initiative for a dialogue.
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