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Asia: Five Nuclear Powers Debate Pakistan, India

Washington, 4 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign Ministers of the five permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council begin an exclusive debate in Geneva today (Thursday) on a coordinated strategy to halt the nuclear arms race under way between Pakistan and India.

The so-called "Permanent Five" -- France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States -- are also the recognized nuclear powers. And statements by top officials in Washington Wednesday made clear that Pakistan and India will not find it easy to join the nuclear club.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that the U.S. will try to mobilize the international community to block their weapons development.

Calling the recent nuclear tests "self-defeating, wasteful and dangerous," he said the U.S. goal is "to forge a common strategy to move India and Pakistan back from their nuclear arms race and begin to build a more peaceful, stable region" in south Asia.

As Clinton put it "the international community must now come together to move them to reverse course."

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, appearing with Clinton at the White House, and later at a State Department press conference before leaving for Geneva, laid out the U.S. position in greater detail.

She unequivocally ruled out formal recognition of India and Pakistan as nuclear states which would require renegotiating and amending the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"The one of the most important pillars of the nonproliferation regime and it needs to stand as it is," Albright said, adding "the NPT will not be amended to accommodate either country."

The treaty, extended indefinitely in 1995, limits nuclear states to the five powers meeting in Geneva today. It was signed by 186 countries but not by Pakistan or India.

Albright said the U.S. and international community will seek a commitment from India and Pakistan to declare a moratorium on further testing. to freeze their weapons programs and refrain from testing missile delivery systems for their nuclear warheads.

But that goal seems doomed. India's Defense Ministry announced Wednesday it had tested a short-range surface-to-air missile for the first time and is moving ahead with development of a long-range ballistic missile. Pakistan has long had a short-range missile capability and is close to completing a long-range missile development program.

Both Clinton and Albright said the U.S. wants to work with India and Pakistan to help them resolve their differences and in Clinton's words "restore a future of hope, not fear."

At the press conference Albright said the U.S. does not want to isolate the two nations and will be discussing ways of bringing them into the negotiating process. "They are the problem but must be part of the solution," she said, "we don't want to make them pariahs."

U.S. officials say they would like the Geneva meeting --which will be chaired by China, the current president of the UN Security Council,-- to produce a joint statement urging India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, not share their technology, and be especially careful not to escalate their long-standing dispute over the Kashmir region, now partitioned between them. Albright said the emergency session in Geneva is to be followed by a meeting of foreign ministers of the G-Group of seven industrial powers and Russia in London on June 12 to broaden the discussion to non-nuclear powers.

She took note of Japan's interest in mediating the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan has endorsed the idea. But the Indian government Wednesday rejected it, saying any discussion of Kashmir must be in direct, face-to-face talks between India and Pakistan.