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World - Africa

India proposes bilateral talks with Pakistan

But Vajpayee rejects international mediation

June 3, 1998
Web posted at: 7:38 p.m. EDT (2338 GMT)

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India offered Wednesday to hold bilateral talks with Pakistan to reduce tensions in the wake of both nations' recent nuclear tests.

The proposal came after a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who arrived in New Delhi for talks after a visit to Islamabad.

However, Vajpayee rejected the possibility of letting other parties join mediation efforts between the two new nuclear neighbors. Indian Foreign Secretary K. Raghunath said his country's leaders believe international concerns about the situation in South Asia are exaggerated.

Remarks from President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright on Wednesday
icon 11 min. VXtreme video

"Life is normal. There is no ground for exaggeration and dramatizing the situation," Raghunath said.

Permanent U.N. Security Council powers to meet

India's offer comes as leaders of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council were preparing to meet in Geneva Thursday to find a joint approach to easing tensions between India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since 1947.


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Wednesday urged India and Pakistan to "cool it" by stopping test explosions and working out their political differences diplomatically. (icon 2Mb/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"Both Indians and Pakistanis are far less secure today than they were three weeks ago," Albright said. (icon 357K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The meeting will include Albright's counterparts from China, Russia, Britain and France. All five nations possess nuclear weapons.

Albright said the goals for the Geneva meeting were to convince India and Pakistan to:

  • stop further nuclear testing and missile deployment.

  • end what she called "inflammatory rhetoric" and "provocative military activity."

  • "re-examine options for easing underlying political problems."

  • sign the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

"The most important thing both sides can do is to cool it, take a deep breath and climb out of the hole they have dug themselves into," Albright said.

U.S. won't push for new sanctions

Albright did not indicate what incentives or deterrents might be considered at the Geneva meeting, but one of her top deputies told a Senate hearing that the United States would not seek to persuade the other major nuclear powers to impose sanctions, viewing that as unproductive.

Instead, said Karl Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, the United States would seek common ground.

Inderfurth also told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that both India and Pakistan may have overstated the number of nuclear tests they conducted and the variety of devices they tested.

India has claimed five tests, Pakistan six. But Inderfurth said the two nations likely exploded "less than they said" and that the precise number was still being determined by scrutinizing seismic and other data.

Review shows lapses led to failure to detect tests

In a related development, a review panel concluded Tuesday that U.S. intelligence failed to warn of India's nuclear weapons tests because of leadership lapses, poor on-the-ground intelligence and failure to pay attention to spy satellite pictures that offered valuable clues.

But the wide-ranging critique of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies stopped short of recommending that anyone be fired or punished.

The independent review panel, headed by retired Adm. David Jeremiah, noted that no one was killed because of the lapses, and concluded that U.S. policymakers, had they been warned, probably would not have been able to dissuade India from conducting the tests.

The panel's 26-page report found fault with top CIA leadership, including Director George Tenet, with the compartmentalized organization of U.S. intelligence and with imagery specialists who left photographic evidence of India's plans "on the cutting room floor."

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