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Make your stand on CTBT public US tells India - The Indian Express

Jyoti Malhotra ()
July 21, 1998

Title: Make your stand on CTBT public US tells India
Author: Jyoti Malhotra
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: July 21, 1998

India and the US today got down to sorting the devil in the
detail in their bilateral relationship, with US Deputy Secretary
of State Strobe Talbott and the Prime Minister's key aide Jaswant
Singh having exhaustive talks over how to "narrow the gap",
especially on security-related matters.

The US team is believed to have told the Indian side that it
should make more public its intentions about signing the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), only after which Washington
may consider going ahead with the visit of US President Bill
Clinton to India.

"The President is one of your only friends (in the US). Help him
to help you," a senior US official said here today.

Both sides are believed to have inched closer on the eventual
deal they will sign, including on key issues such as missile
testing, weaponisation, freer high technology transfer and
enhanced economic interaction.

A fourth round in Washington towards the end of August is likely
to spell out the details.

Talbott, who delivered a letter from Clinton to Vajpayee later in
the evening said the discussions had been "tough for both India
and the US," that there was now a "clearer understanding of the
concerns" and steps had been identified to address those

This morning's team-level talks were followed in the afternoon by
one-on-one meetings between Jaswant Singh and Talbott as well as,
significantly, between joint secretary (disarmament) in the
Ministry of External Affairs Rakesh Sood and US Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Non-Proliferation in the State Department Robert

According to agencies, India firmly told the US that there was no
question about rolling back its weaponisation programme.

It now seems as if the intended bilateral agreement will be
structured m three phases: The first is a more public declaration
of India's intention to sign the CTBT, followed by New Delhi's
signature and lastly, ratification.

The US wants India to make the first move, such as going public
in favour of signing the CTBT, even if the actual signature only
comes later. In exchange it is offering the Presidential visit
later this year. Having climbed on such a critically high
pedestal after India's nuclear tests, sources said, Washington
wants New Delhi to give "something" before it can be seen to be
acquiescing on the transfer of high technology.

New Delhi, also bound by its own need to save face, is not
particularly happy about making public statements in favour of
the CTBT, especially if all it is seen to get in return is a
Presidential visit. Sources here feel "that is not good enough."
Talbott told reporters that Clinton had "before May 11 very much
looked forward to visiting India later this year but as announced
by the White House and the US government, his plans are now under

Meanwhile, an official statement said both sides "exchanged
strategic perspectives on regional and international
developments" and that the talks were "marked by a spirit of
working together to find common ground."

Pakistan seemed to have occupied a significant part of the
dialogue, with the Americans seeming quite worried about the fate
of that country. The Indian side is believed to have reiterated
the fact that terrorism in Kashmir was being supported from
across the border as well as the fact that it was Pakistan which
rejected outright a bilateral pact on no-first-use of nuclear
weapons. A wrap-up round of discussions will take place tomorrow
morning between the two sides, before Talbott and his team fly
away to Pakistan. Today, Talbott met former Prime Minister I K
Gujral, Home Minister L K Advani and Prime Minister Vajpayee. He
win meet Sonia Gandhi tomorrow. Separately, Defence Minister
George Fernandes met the US vice-chief of the joint chiefs of
staff Joseph Ralston where all aspects of the bilateral security
dialogue was discussed. After the US suspended military exchanges
and training on May 12, the first type of sanctions to be applied
on India after its nuclear tests, New Delhi is of the view that
the entire bilateral defence programme, not only piecemeal
interaction, should be revived.

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