The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi trains Geneva N-gun on Pakistan

New Delhi, Jan. 18: Pakistan’s frequent threats to use nuclear weapons and its clandestine nuclear and missile programmes with North Korea in flagrant violation of international norms and guidelines are likely to be highlighted by India at next week’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

India has taken over the presidency of the disarmament conference from the beginning of this year.

Foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal will address the conference on January 23 and highlight some of the major problems the world currently faces in the area of disarmament.

The conference will also be the first multilateral forum where a senior Indian official will speak since Delhi announced its nuclear doctrine last month.

India has emphasised that it will have a “no-first-use” posture and stated that the final decision on using nuclear weapons lies with the civilian authority and the elected representative of the people — the Prime Minister.

Since the nuclear tests in May 1998, India has not played an active role in the conference — one of the most important international forums dealing with issues relating to disarmament. In this context, how Delhi utilises its presidency to highlight problems relating to disarmament assumes significance.

One of the main issues that the disarmament conference has not been able to solve till date is the proposed Fissile Missile Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).

This is mainly due to the strong opposing views held by the US and China. The latter has refused to move forward on the FMCT till there is an agreement on the prevention of arms race in outer space.

Delhi is aware of the sticky situation and does not have any ambitious plans to bring about an overnight solution to the on-going debate on the subject between Washington and Beijing. But it wants to take the opportunity to stress on some of the problem areas.

Sources said Sibal would try and find a balance between highlighting India’s concerns without making any major compromise from its stated position.

To start with, Delhi will want the world to take note of the manner in which Pakistan has been threatening to use nuclear weapons against India.

The foreign secretary’s speech may also refer to the clandestine nuclear and missile programmes between Islamabad and North Korea.

India has been talking about the covert manner in which Pakistan has acquired its nuclear weapons and missiles from China and North Korea for some years now. But the US and other western countries have started focusing on it seriously only after secret deals between Islamabad and Pyongyang were widely reported by the media.

Delhi is also disappointed that the existing international treaties and guidelines have so far not been able to stop such proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

But it is cautious on suggestions made by some western countries of a stronger legal framework to stop such transfers in the future as India does not want to encourage any intrusive regime that jeopardises its sovereignty.

The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace has expressed “great alarm” over India’s decision to “operationalise” its nuclear deterrent. It said “the creation of the Nuclear Command Authority and the Strategic Forces Command is one more step in South Asia’s ladder of escalation, moving India and Pakistan closer than ever before towards deploying nuclear weapons on high alert and, hence, actualising the possibility of using them to cause demonic destruction”.

Arguing that nuclear deterrence was a “fatally-flawed and repugnant doctrine”, the coalition has urged India and Pakistan to start negotiating nuclear-risk-reduction-measures to avoid a “nuclear catastrophe” in South Asia.

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