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|February 11, 1999||
India's demand of credible minimum nuclear deterrence puzzles US
C K Arora in Washington
India's concept of ''credible minimum nuclear deterrence'' appears to be an enigma to the United States, compelling it to ask for its definition.
''I don't see any inconsistency in asking the Indians to define one of their own terms, and our determination to see India and Pakistan join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty," State Department Spokesman James Rubin said.
He said it was India that had used the term. ''If Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott -- and I take you (the correspondent who asked the question) at your word, I don't know -- has asked them to define words that they used, that strikes me as trying to be probing to understand the views of the other side in a diplomatic discussion,'' Rubin said.
He made these observations in reply to a long question that read: "Secretary Talbott has asked India to define what it considers minimum nuclear deterrence for India. Now, what exactly does he mean? Is he hinting that India should keep its nuclear deterrence to the Pakistan level and not bring it up to the China level? Or is he actually asking India for what it considers its optimum range of missiles and number of warheads? Is this not odd, considering the United States is asking India and Pakistan to join the nuclear non-proliferation regime as non-nuclear weapon states? According to media reports, Mr Talbott had raised the issue at the eighth round of the non-proliferation dialogue between the US and India in New Delhi recently.'
Indian official spokesmen have time and again expressed their difficulty to spell out the concept in precise terms.
Recently, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's National Security Advisor and Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra, in a speech in Munich, had spoken of the problems in quantifying the credible minimum nuclear deterrence.
''We are not in a position to discuss numbers, since we are confronted with a changing situation and need to have freedom to respond appropriately,'' Mishra had said.
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