20 June 2004
The Times of India
India, Pak to ban nuclear tests
by SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
NEW DELHI: For the first time since they both became declared nuclear weapons states six years ago, India and Pakistan on Sunday publicly acknowledged that the nuclear capabilities of each other constitute a factor for stability and agreed to establish a dedicated and secure hotline to prevent misunderstandings and reduce risks relevant to nuclear issues.
The hotline would connect the two foreign secretaries through their respective foreign offices, a joint statement released at the end of the two-day technical-level talks on nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) noted.
In a reiteration of their joint desire to be accepted as nuclear weapons states at par with the big five powers whose status is recognised by the NPT, India and Pakistan called for regular working-level meetings to be held among all the nuclear powers to discuss issues of common concern. They also said they would continue to engage in bilateral consultations on security and non-proliferation issues within the context of multilateral negotiations.
Apart from the demand for a seat at the nuclear high table and the decision on a dedicated hotline, the joint statement said each side reaffirmed its unilateral moratorium on further nuclear testing. India and Pakistan also expressed their willingness to work towards concluding an agreement with technical parameters on pre-notification of flight testing of missiles. Furthermore, the existing hotline between the directors-general of military operations (DGMOs) would be upgraded, dedicated and secured.
In an MoU signed in Lahore in 1999, the two countries undertook to provide advance notification of missile tests to each other and conclude a bilateral agreement. Accordingly, the Indian side handed over a draft agreement, which the Pakistani side said it would study. Officials said the draft merely seeks to formalise the existing arrangement of issuing notice, warning shipping and civil aviation about impending tests in a specified area during a small window of dates.
Sunday's joint statement starts by noting that both sides recognise that the nuclear capabilities of each other, which are based on their national security imperatives, constitute a factor for stability and are committed to work towards strategic stability and to national measures to reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons under their respective controls and to adopt bilateral notification measures and mechanisms to prevent misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Although the two-day parleys also involved exchanges of opinion on the nuclear doctrines and security concepts of both countries, the joint statement avoids a specific mention of this subject. Officials say that since the doctrines are still subject to an evolutionary process, there was little point in dwelling on the subject. A senior Pakistani delegate also told The Times of India that since India and Pakistan had well-known differences on concepts like no-first use, no-war pact, strategic restraint, the two sides decided not to focus on these areas of divergence.
The 1999 MoU also committed the two countries to respecting their own moratorium on nuclear test explosions.