May 14, 1998
After setting off five underground blasts, India has said it is finished testing its nuclear capabilities. Is the scare of a chain reaction over or could a regional arms race still begin? Jim Lehrer asks an embassy representative from Pakistan, which maintains an adversarial relationship with its Indian neighbor.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
May 13, 1998
India conducts a second round of nuclear tests.
May 12, 1998
A discussion on India's decision to test nuclear weapons.
Read what some experts had to say about the recent elections in India.
March 19, 1998:
A discussion on how to reduce nuclear proliferation.
March 4, 1998
The BJP wins elections in India.
January 6, 1998
President Clinton announces a new strategy to deter nuclear war.
December 4, 1997
Two retired generals call for an immediate reduction of nuclear arms.
August 17, 1997
Pakistan turns 50.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the military and Asia.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization .
KWAME HOLMAN: After conducting five nuclear tests over three days, India said today there will be no more. But India's neighbor, Pakistan, with whom it has fought three wars in 50 years, says it may be provoked into conducting its own nuclear tests. Throughout the week, President Clinton and other world leaders warned against a regional arms race.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I urge India's neighbors not to follow suit--not to follow down the path of a dangerous arms race.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Pakistani officials said yesterday India's nuclear tests invite a response.
"The leadership, as I say, seems to have gone berserk in India. And it is drawing Pakistan and has drawn Pakistan into a head-long arms race."
GOHAR AYUB KHAN, Foreign Minister, Pakistan: The leadership, as I say, seems to have gone berserk in India. And it is drawing Pakistan and has drawn Pakistan into a head-long arms race.
KWAME HOLMAN: Relations between majority Muslim Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India have been strained ever since Pakistan was carved out of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. Over the years each has bought and developed missiles and aircraft capable of striking deep into the other's territory. Pakistan never has said officially that it possesses nuclear weapons; however, along with India and Israel, Pakistan has refused to sign the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
As a "non-signer," Pakistan has no obligation to open any potential nuclear facility to international inspections. Because it cannot certify Pakistan does not have a nuclear device, the United States has prohibited sales of high-tech aircraft to Pakistan since 1990.Yesterday Secretary of Defense William Cohen voiced the administration's concerns about what might happen next.
SEC. WILLIAM COHEN: There will be a chain reaction, and that's the potential of this--a chain reaction of other countries following suit. It's one of the reasons why we have worked, when I was a member of the Senate and the House, worked so hard to try to keep the nuclear genie as far into the bottle as possible as far as other nations participating in developing nuclear weapons.
KWAME HOLMAN: Yesterday the administration dispatched two emissaries to Pakistan with an appeal not to carry out a test, and today the United Nations Security Council also urged Pakistan to show restraint.
Jim Lehrer speaks with a representative of the Pakistani embassy.
JIM LEHRER: Now to the Number Two man at the Pakistan embassy in Washington, Zamir Akram. Mr. Akram, welcome.
ZAMIR AKRAM, Pakistan Embassy: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: There are reports Pakistan may conduct a nuclear test of its own as soon as Sunday, is that correct?
ZAMIR AKRAM: Well, I'm not in a position to make an accurate response to that, but all I know is that we will make our decision on the basis of our national security interest. We will not act under pressure. We will not act in panic. We will act on the basis of what is in our national interest. And we would make that decision on the basis of a careful assessment of the situation.
JIM LEHRER: The foreign minister said today that what India has done is just short of a declaration of war. Explain that.
"This is a blow to the stability in South Asia, and this is a fatal blow to the international non-proliferation regime."
ZAMIR AKRAM: Well, let me back up and tell you why we are so concerned about what the Indians are doing. The Indians have detonated five nuclear bombs in our neighborhood. And these bombs developed--gave them the ability to develop various kinds of weapons, ranging from a hydrogen bomb, which is a thermonuclear or a fusion bomb, to a missile warhead, nuclear missile warhead, and artillery, nuclear artillery shells that can be used in a tactical situation. So this is a wide range of weaponry that the Indians are moving to acquire and put in their arsenal. They already have a tremendous conventional weapons superiority over Pakistan. This is a threat to our security. This is a blow to the stability in South Asia, and this is a fatal blow to the international non-proliferation regime.
So we are dealing here with a country that in terms of nuclear proliferation is a rogue state. And we saw the condemnation from the international community a day after the first set of explosions took place, what was the Indian response, they responded by detonating two more bombs. So we are dealing with a country that I would categorize in a nuclear proliferation sense as a serial killer, and we can't trust a country like that. We have to deal with this country with strength. The international community has to deal with this country through effective means to restrain it from endangering the world, as well as the region.
JIM LEHRER: So, what you're saying is Pakistan has no choice but to conduct some nuclear tests?
ZAMIR AKRAM: Well, that is not for me to say at this point. What I am saying is that we are doing all the options that are there before us. As you know, there is a delegation from the United States that is visiting Pakistan. We will discuss with them. We have been having--the prime minister has had his own meetings, cabinet meetings, meetings with other analysts, security experts. So we will come to a decision. I don't know when and I don't know what the nature of that decision will be.
JIM LEHRER: Is it your feeling that India is developing these weapons to use against Pakistan specifically?
India and Pakistan: a tense relationship for many years.
ZAMIR AKRAM: Well, we are the primary target. We have a history of dispute of Kashmir. We have been to war three times, and this government, in particular, the Hindu fundamentalists, BJP government.
JIM LEHRER: That's the new government.
ZAMIR AKRAM: That's the new government. This government has the manifesto in which it has clearly identified numerous steps. One of the steps was to go for nuclear weapons, which they have done. The other is to in the region establish the hegemony and to ensure that India emerges as a global power, the credentials which they feel necessary for being a global power, and that's nuclear weapons and missiles.
JIM LEHRER: Do you buy that argument, that in order for India to become a major world power it must have this nuclear weapons capability?
Does India need nuclear weapons capability in order to be a major world power?
ZAMIR AKRAM: Not at all. I think a country like Japan and Germany are far greater powers than they can ever be. But they are not nuclear. They have an economic--intrinsic economic strength, which is the real measure.
JIM LEHRER: Is it your feeling that India is doing this to actually use the weapons, or to deter Pakistan or anybody--China or any other nation from thinking of doing something to them?
ZAMIR AKRAM: Again, let me back up here.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
ZAMIR AKRAM: The Indian nuclear program is not new. They have been on this road since the late 1960's when they refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty. They detonated their first nuclear explosion in 1974. Since that time they have developed enough weapons grade fissile material for more than a hundred bombs. They have also conducted at least 20 tests for missiles that can carry, that can deliver nuclear bombs. They have had and still have an active chemical weapons program. They have now detonated these nuclear tests. So what is this meant for? It is meant to intimidate its neighbors. It is meant to establish the hegemony in our region, and it is meant to gate crash into the club of the nuclear weapon states.
JIM LEHRER: Now, compare Pakistan's nuclear capability with the capability you just laid out for India.
ZAMIR AKRAM: We have a capability that is a restrained one in the sense that we have the technological capability to make nuclear weapons, but we have made a conscious political decision not to do that. So it is a capability, it's a technological capability, it has not been translated into weapons. That's Number one. Number two, we have never conducted a nuclear test. And No. 3, we have never transferred any kind of nuclear technology anywhere else. So we have been very restrained in this business, but we have worked. We have been compelled to respond to Indian ambitions of great powers--that is the problem. Indian ambitions have forced compulsions in Pakistan. That is the correct position in South Asia.
JIM LEHRER: What is your response to the response of the United States in terms of economic sanctions and the response of the rest of the international community to what India has done?
Should the United States impose economic sanctions?
ZAMIR AKRAM: Unfortunately, we--there is in Pakistan very little credibility for what the United States has done in the past. For one thing our consistent arguments, as I was saying, since the time of the Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations, has been met with no response at all in terms of trying to restrain the Indians. On the other hand, since the 1970's, mid 1970's, we have been under sanctions in one form or the other by the United States. Even in this present circumstances, when this new government in India, took power, we went to great lengths, the prime minister of Pakistan wrote to President Clinton conveying our concerns that we see the Indians moving in the direction--they said so themselves--they said it publicly, that they will exercise the option of inducting nuclear weapons, according to exactly from what they said.
JIM LEHRER: It was in their party--it was in their party platform.
ZAMIR AKRAM: Exactly. And then when they came into power they said it openly. And in spite of all this, they were given a certificate of good behavior. In spite of all letters they we have written, the prime minister wrote to the president, as I said, the foreign minister wrote to the Secretary of State. The responses were that no, the Indians are being responsible people; they are being restrained. This is the price we are paying today for that kind of belief.
JIM LEHRER: If Pakistan does, in fact, if you all do go ahead and conduct your own tests, you would be subject to the same sanctions automatically under U.S. law.
ZAMIR AKRAM: We have been subject to various kinds of sanctions since, as I said, the mid 1970's. So we are pretty used to sanctions. What we are looking for is an ability to be able to put this issue--control this issue. And we are willing to work with the United States. We are willing to work with the international community. And whatever sanctions that have been imposed are a step in the right direction. But we need to see more action.
JIM LEHRER: What do you say to those that as of Monday, when India conducted these tests, that genie is out of the bottle in your part of the world and it's going to be very hard to put back in?
ZAMIR AKRAM: I agree. I agree. It's a very dangerous--as I say, it's a very dangerous development. But unfortunately, it's a development that many people share around the world, because it could have been stopped. And I'm surprised that even the intelligence agencies here were not able to detect what was happening.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Mr. Akram, thank you very much.
ZAMIR AKRAM: Thank you so much.