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Five-point US plan to contain nuclear crisis - The Telegraph

Seema Sirohi ()
May 30, 1998

Title: Five-point US plan to contain nuclear crisis
Author: Seema Sirohi
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: May 30, 1998

Faced with the "fearful symmetry" of a nuclear South Asia, the US
squarely blamed New Delhi for forcing the issue and scrambled to
evolve a coherent response to contain and restrain India and

Strobe Talbott, acting secretary of state, said the US will
remain firmly engaged in trying to achieve its goals of military
stability, balance and peace In the region. He also listed five
mmediate goals: to get both countries to renounce further
testing, sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), take
decisive steps to reduce tension, join talks on a fissile
material production cut-off and agree not to deploy missiles.

The US is consulting its European awes to create a unified
response to developments in South Asia, urging them to once again
reconsider economic sanctions against both countries. President

Bill Clinton discussed the Pakistani nuclear tests with Russian
President Boris Yeltsin and secretary of state Madeleine Albright
met Nato foreign ministers in Luxembourg yesterday.

The Pakistani tests were received in the US capital with more
understanding than the Indian tests, which sparked a barrage of
angry statements. Talbott, while admitting that the history of
the issue was more complex, nevertheless blamed India for
starting a new phase. "What is indisputable and very simple is
that on the threshold issue of testing a nuclear device, India
did it first, and put Pakistan under horrendous pressure."
Another US official later directly blamed the election of the BJP
for the latest developments, pointing the finger at its domestic
compulsions and incendiary statements from home minister L.K.

Despite persistent questioning, Talbott and others refused to
entertain the idea that China may have played a role in
heightening India's sense of insecurity by actively collaborating
with Pakistan in its nuclear and missile programmes. The US
administration, keen on its strategic and commercial relationship
with China, has gone to extraordinary lengths to absolve Beijing
of any blame in the current crisis.

know some officials on the Indian side have pointed to China
as in some sense the justification of the Indian tests. our view
is that even if it were true, it would not be justification; but
it's also our view that the motivation on the Indian side which
led directly to the Pakistani test, was not security concerns
about China," Talbott said.

Senior US journalists shrugged and said that was the "name of the
game in Washington". Try as they might, Indian diplomats have
failed to make a convincing case against China to the US. The
Clinton administration has relentlessly courted China and
rationalised every evidence of Beijing's collusion with Islamabad
by showing slippery promises and small gains as evidence that
China is behaving as a "responsible" nuclear power.

On Capitol Hill, however, there is more appreciation of Chinese
actions and how they may have contributed to India going overtly

Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the India Caucus in the
House of Representatives, said actions by China and Pakistan over
the past few years, and more recently, testfiring of the Ghauri
missile had put India in a vulnerable position. Pakistan's
announcement that it was prepared to cap the Ghauri had added a
dangerous new element to the region's arms race.

Editorials in major newspapers expressed fears about the
possibility of a nuclear exchange, given the high level of
tension in the region. They called for both India and Pakistan to
work out an emergency communication system and take confidence-
building measures. "Nuclear weapons are not posters of pride,
they are grave instruments of public Policy. They must be
wielded, if at all, and spoken of, carefully," advised The
Washington Post.

There was also some muted criticism of the 1994 sanctions law
invoked against India and Pakistan as a blunt instrument which
left no room for leverage and incentives.

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