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Let the explosions herald elimination - The Indian Express

Saeed Naqvi ()
June 12, 1998

Title: Let the explosions herald elimination
Author: Saeed Naqvi
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: June 12, 1998

It is ironical that just when official Washington was in the mood
for delivering sermons, CNN and Time have exploded a bombshell of
their own: American arsenal consists of 13 million pounds of
nerve gas. Indeed, nerve gas was used by the United States
Special Forces in a covert operation in Laos in 1970, aimed at a
village believed to be harbouring American soldiers who had
defected. Nerve gas being used to kill Americans? The story has
the potential of escalating. Secretary of Defence William Cohen,
when approached by the CNN-Time to shed some light on the story
had stonewalled: "no comment," he had said. Now that a full blown
scandal looms in sight, he has been constrained to order an

This audacious piece of investigative journalism provides a sort
of context in which to place all the American breast-beating over
the India-Pakistan nuclear tests.

In fact, I had come to New York primarily to keep an appointment
for an interview with Bill Richardson - admittedly arranged prior
to the Indian nuclear tests. This was cancelled without any
reasons being given. Privately I am told that Washington has not
authorised him to say anything "on the record".

It is pretty annoying (and costly) to travel all the way from New
Delhi - only to be told that the interview will not take place.
The incorrigible optimist in me, however, sees some merit in
senior Clinton administration officials not saying anything on
the record to an Indian journalist: the script for the moment
would have to be harsh, and that would make future rapprochement
that much more difficult.

For the time being, the Sino-American mood is supposed to be
reflected in the document that emerged from the Palais Des
Nations in Geneva from the June 4 meeting of the P5 foreign
ministers on "the South Asian situation".

"In May this year, India in defiance of world opinion went a head
with its nuclear tests. After the peace and security in South
Asia was undermined, Pakistan also carried out a nuclear test".
This is in line with the earlier Security Council statement
emphasising the same sequence - first India did it then Pakistan
had no option but to follow. The Chinese hand in these drafts is
the talk of the UN (and little can we complain against the
Chinese batting for Pakistan after that letter to Clinton was
leaked in Washington.)

"Not withstanding their recent nuclear tests, India and Pakistan
do not have the status of nuclear weapons states in accordance
with the NPT," the Geneva communique thunders. "The five will
seek firm commitments by India and Pakistan not to weaponise or
deploy nuclear weapons or missiles."

On that document is the unmistakable stamp of Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright. It is a matter of speculation whether
Albright's script on South Asia prior to Clinton's visit to China
will undergo modifications after the visit is over. For quite
sometime her priorities have been clear. When Bill Richardson
was sent to Dhaka, Islamabad, New Delhi, Colombo and Afghanistan,
Albright undertook the more important journey to China to pave
the way for Clinton's visit.

Since high saliency has been accorded to the Washington-Beijing
visit, it is unlikely that Washington will do anything publicly
which indicates acceptance of the South Asian reality as a
starting point for diplomacy. There have been two redeeming
features during my brief sojourn in New York. One is the feeling
that the vigorous American intelligentsia is beginning to
understand India's frustration with global nuclear apartheid,
and, second, a most thoughtful encounter with Kofi Annan.

I asked him: for decades India campaigned for non-proliferation
regime and now after its own nuclear explosion, New Delhi has
suggested a nuclear weapons convention. Is the World community
ready to respond positively to such an idea? Annan thought it
was one of the ideas on the table and "we shall know in the next
couple of weeks" the response of the international community.
"There has also been a suggestion that the disarmament conference
in Geneva should take on some of the issues, but what is clear to
all observers is that we are living a new reality and that what
happened in South Asia has awakened the world to the need to
tackle this issue of nuclear non-proliferation and to eventually
eliminate these weapons."

If this happens the South Asian explosions will have served their
purpose. Is this not the Indian position as well?

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