`Balance of Terror' Lurks in South Asia

By Barber, Ben | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 19, 1998 | Go to article overview

`Balance of Terror' Lurks in South Asia


Barber, Ben, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


****U.S. ENVOY STROBE TALBOTT HEADS FOR PAKISTAN HOPING TO HALT THE NUCLEAR ARMS RACE.****

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - This South Asian nation of 130 million seems bound to follow India and build its own arsenal of nuclear weapons in defiance of U.S. entreaties, senior officials, diplomats and analysts said Friday.

"We have the informal makings of a South Asian balance of terror," said Information Minister Mushahid Hussain.

"We have completed our nuclear tests and our missile tests - it's irreversible, the genie is out of the bottle," he said in an interview.

Even so, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrives here tomorrow to pursue U.S. efforts to end the arms race between India and Pakistan. He talked with Indian leaders in New Delhi last week.

"We are looking forward to constructive discussions," a foreign office spokesman said.

"Comprehensive" talks with Mr. Talbott on a 13-point agenda would cover "concerns" of both sides, the spokesman said. "We hope there will be a meeting of minds and a better appreciation of each other's position."

But a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Islamabad had serious reservations about signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that Washington wants Pakistan and India to sign.

Retired Lt. Gen. Nishat Ahmad, a senior defense analyst, said "weaponization" - building bombs deliverable by plane or missile - seemed unavoidable after Indian nuclear tests forced Pakistan to bring its own nuclear weapons out of the cellar in May.

"We are still nonweaponized, and if India gave us a chance we'd keep it that way, but I don't think India will let us," said Gen. Ahmad, president of the Institute of Regional Studies, a think tank reflecting senior army views.

"Pakistan intends to build 20 to 30 nuclear weapons - I have that from nonofficial sources," said Gen. Ahmad in an interview Friday.

The U.S. ambassador in New Delhi, Richard Celeste, said Thursday that U.S. diplomacy and sanctions may not be enough to stop nuclear weapons production in South Asia.

"We certainly are on the edge of an arms race," he said in an interview. "The two countries have tested and stated their desire to produce some nuclear weapons. The question is how much restraint they are willing to accept."

Islamabad officials were jubilant at news that Washington was moving to lift sanctions. President Clinton signed a bill Wednesday to resume U.S. grain subsidies and Congress moved to allow presidential waivers of other economic sanctions that followed the nuclear testing.

"There was good news from Washington today," said Mr. …

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