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Friday, 17 March, 2000, 12:58 GMT
US 'accepts' India's nuclear deterrent
Agni Missile
The US wants to curb nuclear proliferation in South Asia
The US has accepted India's need to have a minimum nuclear deterrent, according to Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

In remarks published in the Indian Express newspaper just days before President Clinton's landmark visit to South Asia, Mr Singh said he believed that "differences in perception" over the nuclear issue had been greatly reduced.

I do say that Washington has accepted India's minimum nuclear deterrent

Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh
The remarks stand in sharp contrast to comments by President Clinton this week that a nuclear future was dangerous for South Asia as well as for the rest of the world.

Mr Singh told the Indian Express that there was a much greater understanding in the US and India of each other's positions.

"On account of the statements made by US officials at different times and at different fora, and most lately by US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, I do say that Washington has accepted India's minimum nuclear deterrent," he said.

Indian foreign minister
Jaswant Singh: Says there is greater understanding
He added that India's nuclear weapons status was a fact, and "facts can neither be undone nor done away with."

Both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998, and a key aim of the US administration has been to prevent a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent.

It has been trying to persuade both countries to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Not acceptable

In a statement to a non-proliferation conference in the US on Thursday, President Clinton acknowledged India and Pakistan had legitimate security concerns.

"There are those in the region who hope we will simply accept its nuclear status and move on. I will not do that."

President Clinton
However, he made clear that he would not accept the nuclear status quo in the region.

"I'll stress that narrowing our differences on non-proliferation is important to moving towards a broader relationship," he said.

Mr Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, has said the US will continue to press both India and Pakistan "to stop the production of fissile material. . . and to join with us in seeking to negotiate a fissile material cut-off treaty."

President Clinton is to spend five days in India next week, and then make a brief stopover in Pakistan on his way back to the US.

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See also:

15 Mar 00 | Americas
US urges India nuclear control
11 Mar 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Clinton's balancing act
16 Feb 00 | South Asia
Intense lobbying over Clinton visit
09 May 99 | South Asia
India rules out test ban signing
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