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Thursday, May 28, 1998 Published at 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK


Despatches

Pakistan's tests cause 'pandemonium' in Indian parliament



Daniel Lak reports from Delhi:
[ image: Daniel Lak]
Daniel Lak

Pandemonium erupted in the Indian parliament at the news of the Pakistani nuclear tests.

The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, said Pakistan's move had vindicated India's decision to conduct its own nuclear test explosions.

Mr Vajpayee was jeered by opposition MPs who have spent the past two days strongly criticising his government's move to test nuclear devices and attract international condemnation.

Anxiety that Pakistan would not test

The government will be pleased that the Pakistanis have taken the steps they have. Ministers and officials here have been saying almost since the Indian tests were conducted earlier this month that a responding test by Pakistan would not be seen as an act of aggression.

But India could hardly deny its neighbour something it itself had done. In fact there was a certain anxiety that Pakistan might not test and thus make less relevant India's argument that its national security was deteriorating and needed an openly nuclear dimension.

Serious disarmament talks

One minister said once the two countries had conducted their tests they could start talking seriously about disarmament issues, possibly a no-first-use agreement for their nuclear arsenals.

The idea of no-first-use was rejected by Pakistan in 1994 as too hypothetical when both countries weren't openly nuclear weapon states.

What would be more worrying for India and those countries that fear a regional arms race is the statement by Pakistan that it intends to make its newly developed long-range Goringmissile capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

That will increase pressure here to resume full development of even longer range projectiles with full nuclear weapons capability.

Scientists and ministers said after the five Indian nuclear tests earlier this month that India was now capable of deploying a range of nuclear weapons for a variety of methods of delivery.



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