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September 24, 1998


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Vajpayee makes conditional offer on signing CTBT

India today offered to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty subject to the success of its ongoing discussions with the US and others on its vital security concerns.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Vajpayee said India, having harmonised its national imperatives and security obligations and desirous of continuing to co-operate with the international community, is now engaged in discussions with key interlocutors on a range of issues including the CTBT.

The prime minister gave a clear indication of his government's willingness to sign the CTBT by September 1999.

Speaking in Hindi, Vajpayee said, ''We are prepared to bring these discussions to a successful conclusion, so that entry into force of the CTBT is not delayed beyond September 1999. We expect other countries, as indicated in article 14 of the CTBT, will adhere to this treaty without conditions.''

Giving the background of India's stand on the CTBT, he referred to the ''deteriorating security environment which as obliged as stand apart from the CTBT in 1996.''

Vajpayee also recalled how India's nuclear disarmament proposals were not accepted by the international community. The treaty, as it emerged, was not accepted by India on grounds of national security.

''We made explicit our objection that despite our stand having been made clear, that treaty text made India's signature and ratification a precondition for its entry into force'', he added.

He said India has begun its participation in Geneva talks on a treaty seeking to prohibit the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

''Once again, we are conscious that this is a partial step. Such a treaty, as and when it was concluded and entered into force, would not eliminate existing nuclear arsenal,'' Vajpayee said.

''Yet we will participate in these negotiations in good faith in order to ensure a treaty that is non-discriminatory and meet India's security imperatives,'' he added.

Interestingly, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, who spoke yesterday, took an identical stand to that of India on the issue of CTBT.

Vajpayee said India undertook a limited series of five underground nuclear tests conducted in May this year. These tests were essential for ensuring a credible nuclear deterrent for India's security in the foreseeable future.

He asserted that ''these tests do not signal a dilution of India's commitment to the pursuit of global nuclear disarmament. Accordingly, after concluding this limited testing programme, India announced a voluntary moratorium on future underground nuclear test explosions.''

He said India conveyed its willingness ''to move towards a de jure formalisation of this obligation.'' In announcing a moratorium, India has already accepted the basic obligation of the CTBT. "In 1996, India could not have accepted the obligation, as such a restraint would have eroded our capability and compromised national security."

In a six-page speech, the prime minister referred to the problem of terrorism, expansion and reform of the United Nations and issues raised due to economic globalisation.

In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Vajpayee said, in India, ''We have had to cope with terrorism, aided and abetted by a neighbouring country for nearly two decades.''

''We have borne this with patience, but none should doubt the strength of our resolve to crush this challenge,'' he added.

He urged the international community to treat terrorism as a crime against humanity.

''Unilateral steps can hardly stand scrutiny in an open society, let alone in the eyes of the international community,'' he said.

Vajpayee said it should be the primary task of all open and plural societies to develop collective means for tackling this menace.

Without referring to India's plea for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, Vajpayee made out a strong case for the reform and expansion of 15-member world body.

He said developing countries must be made permanent members of the council to make it a fully representative international organisation.

Prime Minister's speech in Real Audio at the UN General Assembly


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