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Analysis Monday, 6 July, 1998, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Will India sign test-ban treaty?
nuclear blast
Delhi is worried about nuclear encirclement
The Indian Government has indicated that it is moving towards signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty - a move to allay international concern over India's explosion of nuclear devices in May. The BBC's Andrew Whitehead looks at the evolving Indian diplomatic strategy over the nuclear issue:

The Indian Government has always insisted that it fully expected and allowed for the angry chorus of international criticism which greeted the nuclear tests at Pokhran.

It is now clear that is not the case.

Senior Indian officials now concede that they have been taken aback by President Clinton's strong personal reaction to the tests. They had not fully appreciated the extent to which Bill Clinton has made nuclear non-proliferation a personal crusade.

New diplomatic course

The severity of the American criticism, and the growing strength of US relations with China, have obliged Delhi to embark on a new diplomatic course to try to rebuild links disrupted by the row over the tests.

India is now indicating that it is prepared to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, converting the self-declared moratorium on nuclear tests into a binding international commitment.

But senior figures in the Indian administration are making clear that they want a substantial concession in exchange.

One scenario now being talked about is that President Clinton will come to Delhi as planned towards the end of the year, India will make public a decision to sign the Test Ban Treaty, and it will expect the Americans to drop or at least amend the sanctions imposed after the Indian tests.

Talking begins again

Dialogue with Washington appears to have been restored.

Jaswant Singh - the senior BJP leader sent as a special emissary to the US immediately after the tests - is meeting the US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, in Germany this week.

Mr Talbott is expected in Delhi later in the month.

The Indian administration believes that it has managed to get the message across that Delhi is worried about nuclear encirclement.

In the words of one senior official: "We have a nuclear power to our north (China) which has helped to create another nuclear power to our west (Pakistan)."

There is no doubt that China is regarded in Delhi as the bigger danger.

Indian officials insist they are not seeking parity with Beijing, simply an adequate deterrent.

They also insist that India will not be conducting any more nuclear tests whatever neighbouring countries may choose to do.

Links to more Analysis stories are at the foot of the page.


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