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Indian nuclear test not an impediment - The Hindu

Posted By Krishnakant Udavant (kkant@bom2.vsnl.net.in)
July 21, 1998

Title: 'Indian nuclear test not an impediment'
Publication: The Hindu
Date: July 21, 1998

South Africa today said that nuclear tests by India were not an
impediment to bilateral ties and that it "understood" New Delhi's
compulsions for the atomic explosions .

"We have differences over the nuclear question but that has never
become a problem in our extremely close relationship," South
Africa's High Commissioner, Mr. Jerry M. Matsila has said.

Mr. Matsila made this observation at a press conference which was
scheduled after the visit to South Africa by the Principal
Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. Brajesh Mishra.

South Africa, according to Mr. Matsila, was keen to give a firm
push to its economic relationship with India. The Indo-South
Africa joint Commission would meet in September and special
efforts were being made for the formation of a joint Business
Council. South Africa envisaged that the JBC would become the
engine for private sector tie-ups. Space, defence, and maritime
security had also been identified as areas of special interest by
the two sides.

South Africa was "satisfied" with the Indian explanation of the
rationale for Its atomic tests, Mr. Matsila said, pointing out
that New Delhi had conveyed its viewpoint both at the official
and political level.

Pretoria did not see the tests by India and Pakistan as "a
signal" for an arms race in the subcontinent, he said, adding
that South Africa had arrived at this conclusion based on Mr.
Mishra's meetings and the visit to his country by a Pakistani
special envoy.

South Africa was aware that India's nuclear tests had not diluted
its commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons. It was clear
to Pretoria that India was keen on engaging in discussions on the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Mr. Matsila observed.

South Africa also welcomed India's willingness to participate in
direct talks with Pakistan to resolve all its problems and was
hopeful that the meeting between the Prime Minister. Mr. Atal
Behari Vajpayee, and his Pakistani counterpart, Mr. Nawaz Sharif,
in Colombo later this month would be fruitful. South Africa was
also, looking forward to Mr. Vajpayee's' presence at Durban
during the Non-Aligned summit in September. The NAM summit was
likely to give a fresh economic orientation to the grouping,
though a proposal on disarmament which New Delhi would be able to
"live with" was also likely to be tabled during the conference.

Besides nuclear issues, talks between Mr. Mishra and the South
African Deputy President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, covered a lot of
economic ground. South Africa, for instance, was keen on working
together with India to revive its stalled space programme. India
could help in rebuilding a satellite launching site in South
Africa. "We have signed a framework agreement on space
cooperation but have now to start identifying concrete projects,"
Mr. Matsila said.

India-South Africa defence ties went far beyond military hardware
exchanges. Training had become an important element in the
relationship and around 40 South Africans were currently in
Indian training establishments. Maritime security was another
area of interest and South Africa was keen on working out a
bilateral arrangement with India to protect commercial shipping.

On the military hardware side. South Africa and India were
looking at developing self-propelled guns, suitable for Indian
conditions. At the moment. they were experimenting with a South
African gun. mounted on the chassis of the Arjun tank. South
Africa had also developed an armoured vehicle, called Caaspir
which could be useful in counterinsurgency warfare.

South Africa and India were working out a long term arrangement
on intercontinental cargo transshipment. The two sides were
looking at ways to generate larger trade volumes with Latin
America. India, on its part, was keen to see South Africa emerge
as a transshipment point for its cargo bound for South America.
South Africa was expected to take up these issues in the South
Atlantic trade Organisation, of which it was a key member.

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