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August 18, 1999
US reacts sharply to nuke doctrine
C K Arora in Washington
The Bill Clinton administration has reacted sharply to India's draft nuclear doctrine.
The United States may take up this 'apparently destabilising development' with External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh during the UN General Assembly session next month in New York.
All the three major pillars of the US government -- the White House, the state department and the Pentagon -- criticised the draft saying that instead of enhancing India's security, as believed, it would unleash an arms race in the region, escalating tension.
The US also said that it would seek clarifications on the draft at the next round of the non-proliferation dialogue between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh which had been delayed because of India's parliamentary election.
Meanwhile, President Bill Clinton sent letters at the weekend to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief, again urging restraint and a resumption of the Lahore dialogue, ''that is the foundation of the engagement between the two sides''.
White House deputy spokesman David Leavy, who gave this information in reply to a question yesterday, did not disclose the content of the two letters.
When asked about India's new nuclear doctrine, Leavy said, ''Well, during the past year we have made it clear to both sides that it's our best judgement that their own security is not enhanced by having nuclear weapons, that in fact the presence of nuclear weapons on the subcontinent raises the possibility of an arms race that's in no one's interest. ''In addition to that, we'll continue to make it clear to both sides that it's our hope that they can engage directly on adhering or eventually ratifying the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), which is so much in our own interests and in the interests of both sides,'' he added.
The spokesman replied in the negative when asked whether President Clinton, in his letters, hinted at the possibility of American response to the use of nuclear weapons by either side.
State department spokesman James Rubin said the nuclear doctrine would lead India in the wrong direction. ''The Indians have been saying for sometime that they will produce such a doctrine. They did not share this doctrine with us prior to its release,'' Rubin said. ''The US will continue to make the case to both India and Pakistan that possession of nuclear weapons in this form or similar forms did not enhance their security,'' he added.
In reply to a question, Rubin said the non-proliferation dialogue that began between the US and India after the latter's May 1998 nuclear tests, had been productive.
New Delhi took some positive steps, including declaration of a moratorium on further nuclear testing and commitment to move towards adherence to the CTBT by September 1999. ''However, we will encourage India to take additional steps to demonstrate its declared intention to avoid a nuclear and missile race with its neighbours,'' he said.
Asked whether the US would encourage India to take additional steps, Rubin said, ''Yes, we will want to see India develop an export control system that deals effectively with sensitive technologies and materials, a multilateral moratorium on production of fissile material pending negotiations on a treaty banning the production of such material.''
''In general, what we are looking for is not only the signature and ratification of the CTBT but an overall prudent posture of restraint covering nuclear weapons in the South Asia region,'' he added.
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