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Delhi’s no Pyongyang, says Blair

London, Oct. 10: Indian diplomacy has tasted its first success in trying to prevent the country being lumped with North Korea as a nuclear proliferator.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed Delhi’s position that any comparisons between its own nuclear policy and Pyongyang’s test were “completely false”.

Blair said “common sense” would show that drawing such a parallel was incorrect.

The British Prime Minister emphasised that it was important for the international community to clearly understand the difference between North Korea and a country like Britain or India. “Otherwise we end up making comparisons which are completely false,” he said.

“My view is that North Korea is in a very different situation. They are in breach of international obligations and India has been very strong on counter-proliferation. North Korea is going in the opposite direction,” Blair said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his official residence at 10 Downing Street.

He said both Britain and India have a set of international obligations to which they strictly adhere. “The difference between a country like Britain or India and a country like North Korea is that we are democracies, we abide by the rule of law and we abide by our international obligations. North Korea is doing none of these things,” he said.

Blair pointed out that not only was North Korea in complete breach of all its obligations, it was also doing so in circumstances “where its people are kept in a position virtually of slavery and where people die of starvation because money is spent on nuclear weapons”.

The tragedy of North Korea, he said, was not just the nuclear test but what was happening in that country.

Rejecting all comparisons and rationalisations of North Korea’s nuclear test, the British Prime Minister said “common sense” would show that there was a difference between functioning democracies working against nuclear proliferation and those going in the opposite direction.

He said the only way out of the present situation was to “revitalise the six-party talks to make sure that North Korea comes back to its international obligations”.

Agreeing with him, the Indian Prime Minister underlined the black-market route of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. Singh said that India did not support “the emergence of another nuclear weapons state” and that “India’s own security had suffered because of the clandestine proliferation linkages emanating from our neighbourhood”.

Blair did not quite take the bite and refrained from condemning Pakistan.

While agreeing with the clandestine route of North Korea’s bomb, he, instead, tried to point to international successes in tightening up the proliferation regime.

While citing the case of Libya coming into the fold of non-proliferation and the shutting down of A.Q. Khan’s network in Pakistan as significant successes, Blair claimed: “This is a battle that continues all the time.”

Responding to a question on concerns about Pakistan aiding and abetting terrorism in India, Blair came out rather strongly, equating Madrid and London bombings with Kashmir. “No country, no government, no state should support terrorism,” he said.

“Terrorism is everywhere. There is only one solution to it — which is for decent people to come together and stand up for the values of tolerance.”

In his opening remarks, Singh said both India and Britain had agreed that there was a need “for a global effort with shared perspectives and commitments to combat terrorism wherever and whenever such attacks take place”. He felt that both the Mumbai and London attacks were “reminders of the common terrorist threats we face”.

The British Prime Minister had some special words of praise for his Indian counterpart and claimed that he personally admired him. He also commended Singh’s attempt to work together with Pakistan to jointly counter terrorism. Both the Prime Ministers said they valued the friendship between their two countries and hoped for a greater momentum to the relationship in the coming years.

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