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Wednesday, May 13, 1998 Published at 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK

Indians swing behind tests

Public opinion is backing the nuclear tests

Indian public opinion has swung behind the government and its decision to test nuclear weapons.

While the international community considers wide-ranging sanctions against India for the five nuclear tests, the BJP government may have rightly calculated that it could count on the support of the people.

Many people regard the tests as a source of national pride and a display of India's scientific prowess.

'Dancing with joy'

Indians tell the BBC the nuclear tests have improved their country's standing (54")
After Monday's first three nuclear tests, people living only 40km away from the Pokhran test site in Rajasthan were reported to have been jubilant at the news.

According to the Times of India, "the people of Pokhran started dancing with joy in the main bazaar".

In Jodhpur, the capital of west Rajasthan, people celebrated by distributing sweets, the newspaper reported.

Former PM approves

[ image: People say the tests are a great achievment]
People say the tests are a great achievment
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been cheered in the streets of Dehli which reflected a general national mood supporting the tests.

One former Prime Minister, I K Gujral, summed up the mood for many Indians when he criticised other countries which hold nuclear weapons.

He said: "I do hope that wisdom prevails. The appropriate approach will be to engage India in talks and not push one billion people into radicalism."

'Double standards at work'

Govindraj Ethiraj: "Indians are proud of the achievement" (56")
Defence analyst K Subrahmanyam told All India Radio that the industrial nuclear powers were displaying double standards.

"What India has done is to join the mainstream (of) nuclear security," he said.

"Those who criticise India would be honest and less hypocritical if they are to give up the protection of nuclear weapons and then object to the Indian tests.

"This is a continuation of the white racist colonialist approach of the bygone era.

"We should learn to take these criticisms in our stride and not attach undue importance to them."

Stocks fall

[ image: Support may slip if sanctions affect everyday life]
Support may slip if sanctions affect everyday life
Indian shares lost 4% of their value on the Bombay stock market as traders prepared for President Bill Clinton to announce US sanctions.

Govindraj Ethiraj, an analyst with the Economic Times of India, said the government had considered the possibility of sanctions before the tests.

But he added: "I am not sure that they had calculated how the rupee would be under pressure, and the stock markets have faced heavy selling pressure.

"While Indians might be proud of their country's scientific achievements, as businessmen and traders they are not too sure about what lies ahead."

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