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October 3, 1998


Vajpayee rules out signing CTBT if talks fail

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Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has made it clear that India could consider signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty only if its ongoing dialogue with key countries on the subject was successful.

''Everything depends on the success of talks (with key countries)... Certain points are yet to be cleared. If the talks succeed, India will think of signing the CTBT,'' he told reporters at Delhi airport on his arrival on Thursday from his eight-day tour of New York and France.

The prime minister, however, hastened to add that India had already accepted the substance of the CTBT by announcing a unilateral moratorium on further nuclear tests.

Describing his visit as ''highly successful'', Vajpayee said a new agreement had been reached with Islamabad during talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief on the resumption of official level dialogue between the two countries. The foreign secretaries of the two countries would meet in Islamabad from October 15 to resolve Kashmir and other outstanding issues, he said. Thereafter, the talks would be held in November in New Delhi. ''There is no other way for the two countries but to talk.''

When it was pointed out to him that the two countries had reached a similar agreement on the talks in 1994 but the dialogue broke down, he said, ''There is a qualitative change in the situation now... Both countries are nuclear weapons states and both have to understand their responsibilities.''

Vajpayee pointed out that Pakistan's efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue at the UN and link it up with the Pokhran blasts did not succeed.

Vajpayee was received at the airport by Union ministers L K Advani, Madan La Khurana, Ananth Kumar, P Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, Kashiram Rana and K R Janardhanan, senior BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma, the ambassadors of the United States and France and senior civil and military officials.

In a written statement released to the press, the prime minister said he had conveyed to the world community in his United Nations General Assembly address that India was prepared to bring its ongoing discussions with key interlocutors on the CTBT to a successful conclusion so that the entry into force of the treaty was not delayed beyond September 1999.

He said he had reiterated India's commitment to universal and non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmament and its earnest desire to work with all countries, particularly the nuclear weapons states, to eliminate this category of weapons of mass destruction.

Earlier, speaking to mediapersons, who travelled with him on his foreign tour on board Air India Harshvardhan, the prime minister said as far as sanctions against India in the wake of its nuclear tests were concerned, New Delhi had enough strength and resilience to withstand these.

Listing the positive aspects of his visit to the UN, he said India's viewpoint on the nuclear tests was put forth forcefully. Many countries had now come to understand India's security perceptions which compelled it to conduct the tests after a gap of 24 years.

In his written statement, Vajpayee said he had friendly talks with the Pakistani premier. ''We approved the understanding arrived at Durban by our delegations on the modalities of the dialogue process.'' He noted that the two countries had agreed to commence direct bus services from Lahore to New Delhi. This would facilitate greater people-to-people contact. They also agreed to hold discussions on purchase of electricity by India from Pakistan. ''I believe that a new beginning has been made in our relations with Pakistan.''

Vajpayee said India's views on the growing menace of terrorism, which transcended national boundaries, were finding increasing resonance in the international community. Another issue that he highlighted at New York was the need for a new international dialogue on the future of the global economy involving both developed and developing countries. ''Our position on these issues, which are of contemporary relevance, has been welcomed by international community and media.''

He said he had met a number of opinion makers of the US and shared India's perceptions and concerns with them. He said there was a growing feeling that Indo-US relations needed to be revitalised, which New Delhi welcomed.

Vajpayee also met a cross-section of the Indian-American community. They were very supportive of India and expressed their desire to contribute to its development. Vajpayee also met a number of prominent members of the US business community and reiterated the government's commitment to economic reforms.

They appreciated the steps taken by the government to expedite decision-making and facilitate the implementation of investment proposals. They emphasised the importance they attach to India, and conveyed their desire to see the early removal of economic restrictions on cooperation between India and the US, he said.

Talking about his first visit to a P-5 country, France, between September 29 and 30, Vajpayee said, "The visit was substantive and productive." The prime minister had extensive discussions with President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Jospin and his senior cabinet colleagues dealing with finance, defence, education research and technology.

The prime minister's visit was a continuation of the process of developing the new relationship with France, set in motion by President Chirac's visit in January 1998 as the chief guest during India's Republic Day celebrations.

Vajpayee said, "I am confident that this visit will further consolidate this new dimension in our bilateral relationship."

Both countries share the perspective that the new world order has to be a genuine multi-polar world order. "Our bilateral relationship is poised to grow in the coming months in a multi-faceted manner," Vajpayee said.


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