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New Book Suggest India's Nuclear Capability Greater Than Previously Thought in West

Aired March 20, 2000 - 1:02 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Except for a brief stop in Pakistan, the president will spend the rest of this week in India. Both of those nations are among the newest members of the so-called nuclear club, and keeping the border tensions low is Mr. Clinton's top priority. But India's nuclear capability may be further along than many Westerners imagined.

CNN's Satinder Bindra reports now from New Delhi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): In a new book, a leading Indian defense writer says India has deployed several missiles again Pakistan called Prithuies (ph).

RAJ CHENGAPPA, AUTHOR: Prithuie missiles were actually deployed in the northern borders of India. This was in response to what Pakistan did. And these missiles are nuclear capable.

BINDRA: Raj Chengappa has spent months researching his latest book, "Weapons of Peace." Chengappa says India has developed an aircraft delivery system for its nuclear weapons. Then, last April in a secret test, he says, scientists successfully validated India's capability to launch a nuclear warhead fitted to the country's medium- range missile, the Adney (ph).

CHENGAPPA: It's perfected its missile system. And don't forget the Adney goes up to 2,000 kilometers. That means many of China's cities come under its range.

BINDRA: Brajesh Mishra, India's national security adviser, confirms parts of what Chengappa writes on India's nuclear weapons.

BRAJESH MISHRA, INDIAN NATL. SECURITY ADVISER: Of course they can be deployed. They have to be deployed in order to be -- in order to act as a deterrent. What we are planning, and we have already planned, is to ensure the survivability of our nuclear assets against a first strike so that we are able to retaliate.

BINDRA: Mishra will not say where India has placed its nuclear weapons. President Bill Clinton says he'll now ask both India and Pakistan to roll back their nuclear programs. Mishra says India will not agree. MISHRA: Assessment of our security needs can only be done by us, by no one else.

BINDRA: For a majority of 1 billion Indians, the country's nuclear program is a matter of great national pride.

(on camera): India's already resisting U.S. pressure to quickly sign the comprehensive test ban treaty. Indian officials say the best Clinton can hope to do is convince India to work towards nonproliferation and stop the export of its own nuclear technology.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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