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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan slams Indian nuclear policy

India says it wants a "credible" minimum nuclear deterrent

Pakistan has attacked India for its announcement earlier this week that it is committed to developing a nuclear weapons arsenal.

In a speech to the 66-nation Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Pakistani ambassador Munir Akram said that India's draft nuclear doctrine issued on Tuesday showed that it was "about to embark on a further and even more dangerous escalation in the nuclear and conventional arms build-up".

[ image: Munir Akram:  India creating
Munir Akram: India creating "huge arsenal"
Mr Akram told the meeting that India's commitment to a policy of credible minimum nuclear deterrence would create a "huge arsenal".

He also said that Pakistan would be "obliged to respond".

And in Islamabad, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed reinforced the suggestion that Pakistan would have to respond.

He told journalists: "We will have to remain linked to the ratio and proportion, score and magnitude of the threat that India's actions in this field pose to Pakistan's security."

He added that India's move once again made it difficult for Pakistan to unilaterally sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

India rejects remarks

Mr Akram's remarks at the UN were immediately attacked by Indian ambassador Savitri Kunadi.

She said there was no basis for them.

"There is no change in the Indian position on the doctrine of minimum credible (nuclear) deterrence and its elements as stated ... in the past," she said.

India's draft doctrine - issued by the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) - says the country will pursue a policy of a credible minimum nuclear deterrence based on aircraft, ships and mobile land-based missiles.

[ image: Brajesh Mishra:
Brajesh Mishra: "Should be in a position to retaliate"
Brajesh Mishra, national security adviser to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, said India "should remain in a position to retaliate if nuclear weapons are used against us".

The doctrine made no mention of non-proliferation measures, or of the cost of maintaining a nuclear arsenal.

But it did reiterate India's commitment to no first-use of nuclear weapons.

Observers saw timing of the announcement as linked to the forthcoming general elections, with the ruling BJP hoping to capitalise on nationalist sentiment.

US voices displeasure

The Indian nuclear statement has drawn criticism from the US Government.

US State Department spokesman James Rubin said the doctrine's commitment to developing a nuclear arsenal was neither in the interest of India, the US nor the world at large.

"We have received the document and we are studying it. In general, we do not find it an encouraging document," Rubin said in comments on Wednesday.

In Delhi, Indian Foreign Secretary, Jaswant Singh, has said that he he is willing to ease US concerns about his country's nuclear weapons policy when he meets US Secretary of State, Madelaine Albright.

Mr Singh said that he was convinced that he would be able to allay concerns expressed in the US and China.

India tested a series of nuclear devices in May last year, triggering a tit-for-tat response from Pakistan and US-led international sanctions.

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