11 October 2006

North Korean case different from India's, says Tony Blair

India does not support emergence of another nuclear state: Manmohan

11 October 2006
The Hindu

North Korean case different from India's, says Tony Blair

Siddharth Varadarajan

London: Condemning North Korea for conducting a nuclear test, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said the further erosion of the non-proliferation regime was not in India's interests, and the country did not support the emergence of another nuclear weapon state.

He was speaking at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street here shortly after wrapping up their third annual summit. Counter-terrorism, energy cooperation and investment promotion were the main issues tackled, though Monday's nuclear test by North Korea inevitably figured prominently.

Support from Blair

If the Indian side was anxious that the world should not club Pyongyang with New Delhi, it received a boost from Mr. Blair who stressed, in reply to a question from a British journalist, that North Korea was a "very different situation altogether."

"They are in clear breach of their international obligations. Whereas a country like India has been very strong on counter-proliferation, North Korea is going in the opposite direction," Mr. Blair said.

On his part, Dr. Singh said India had expressed its deep concern over North Korea's nuclear test, and considered it a violation of its international commitments. "India has supported the six-party talks, intended to achieve the goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. I wish to state that the further erosion of the non-proliferation regime is not in our interests. We do not support the emergence of another nuclear weapon state."

Clandestine programme

In line with India's initial reaction to the test, Dr. Singh again stressed the "clandestine" nature of the proliferation, which facilitated North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. "North Korea's test highlights the dangers of clandestine proliferation. In fact, India's own security has suffered through clandestine proliferation linkages emanating from our neighbourhood."

On terrorism, he said India intended to "take advantage of" Pakistan's offer to cooperate in the investigation into the Mumbai blasts, and "will provide [Islamabad] what we consider as credible evidence to that effect."

Speaking on background, Indian officials said that while Dr. Singh presented to Mr. Blair the broad outlines of what the investigations had revealed, no specific evidence could be shared with anybody until charge sheets were filed in court.

Asked whether India and Pakistan would set up a "working group" on Kashmir, Dr. Singh clarified that the two sides had issued a joint statement in Havana recently, in which "we have reaffirmed our commitment to discuss and resolve all outstanding issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir." In addition to this, India and Pakistan "have agreed to set up an institutional mechanism to deal with terrorist threats, and that mechanism is now in the process of being worked out."

Though a direct question was put to Mr. Blair whether his interactions with Dr. Singh had given him a better understanding of Pakistan's alleged role in abetting terrorism, the British Prime Minister refrained from pointing fingers in any specific direction. "I think we've both agreed that we've got to send the strongest possible signal everywhere that terrorism cannot be tolerated, whether it is Mumbai, or London or Kashmir."

Describing Dr. Singh's meeting with General Musharraf in Havana as a "positive outcome," Mr. Blair said he had himself met the Pakistani President a few weeks ago, "and we went back over this ground."

Mr. Blair said India and Britain had agreed on a new package of measures to enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism.

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