Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Impact Factors of 1998 Nuclear Tests in South Asia

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Impact Factors of 1998 Nuclear  Tests in South Asia

The nationalist government which took over in New Delhi in March 1998 under Vajpayee’s premiership conducted in May five nuclear tests and declared India to be a nuclear weapon state. In response Pakistan successfully exploded its six nuclear devices on 28 and 30 May 1998. Following the Indian suit Islamabad offered New Delhi to initiate a dialogue to ensure mutual restraint in the wake of nuclear tests by both sides but it should address all outstanding issues, including the thorny Kashmir problem. Tariq Altaf, a spokesman of Pakistani foreign office reiterated Nawaz Sharif’s assertion saying that Pakistan was ready to have a non-aggression pact with India but after just settlement of Kashmir dispute ‘Actually Kashmir is the core problem which is a cause of tension in the region he asserted and accused India of an illegal occupation and suppression of the people’s rights in Jammu and Kashmir. Nawaz Sharif also raised the matter on 6 June 1998 while addressing a joint session of the two Houses of Parliament to approve the imposition of emergency in the country, termed the Kashmir problem a ‘challenge for the international conscience’ and urged the world nations to take practical steps for solving the issue. Adhering to the earlier stand Vajpayee too while taking part in a debate on nuclear issue in the Rajya Sabha on 8 June reiterated New Delhi’s desire for earliest resumption of official talks with Pakistan on all outstanding issues including Kashmir but ruled out any third party mediation in the dialogue process.
Natural impacts of nuclear tests
Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan had further complicated the matter and not only changed the power equation in South Asia, but it also made deep impact on India and Pakistan by forcing political leaders to rethink and revisit their national security strategy differently. It drove South Asia to an uncertain and fragile situation and led the world leaders to raise myriad questions regarding possible nuclear confrontation in the region. In apprehension the United States ordered sanctions against both countries, freezing more than twenty billion dollar of aid, loans and trade. Japan ordered a block on about one billion dollar of aid loans. Several European countries followed suit, and the G-8 governments imposed a ban on non-humanitarian loans to India and Pakistan. The UN Security Council condemned India and Pakistan for carrying out nuclear tests and urged the two nations to stop all nuclear weapons programmes. In post-Pokhran phase while Kashmir does not receive the attention and press coverage of other political hotspots such as the Middle East, it is considered by many experts to be one of the most potentially explosives regions in the world. There have been innumerable direct bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan on or including Kashmir, unfortunately all these discussions have not yielded any result.
Post- nuclear meetings
After nuclear tests by both the two Prime Ministers – Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif met in July 1998 at the SAARC summit in Colombo where they instructed their Foreign Secretaries to discuss modalities for revival of Foreign Secretary level talks. Actually Islamabad knew that Colombo was only the first stage of a last, desperate, gamble to wrest Kashmir from India by literally blackmailing the world into imposing a solution to the Kashmir issue on India.  Under the strategy Pakistan proposed to get Kashmir discussed within the SAARC summit on the grounds that the nuclear tests had turned the Kashmir dispute into a regional threat to peace and security and a second one to establish a high council of foreign ministers who would discuss both bilateral and multilateral security and associated issues. Having failed at Colombo Pakistan unveiled its further strategy on August 2, 1998, in which Nawaz Sharif accused India of pushing the region to the brink of war with its barrage of artillery fire. He along with his Foreign Minister asked the world community to put pressure on India to desist from such actions. Pakistan’s foreign minister warned that if New Delhi dared to attack in Kashmir Islamabad would use Chinese and North Korean missiles to hit Indian cities with nuclear warheads. At the moment it is Pakistan’s assessment that the more they prolong the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir through political, subversive and terrorist means, the greater the likelihood of direct international involvement in discussions on Kashmir and greater the pressure likely to be exerted on India on the issue.
Positive developments of the time
In the middle of October 1998 the stalled Indo-Pak talks resumed with little hope for any breakthrough in view of the recent tough stand by both the countries on Kashmir. It was held in Islamabad in view of the agreement between Prime Ministers of the two countries during their meeting in NewYork where they reaffirmed their common belief that an environment of durable peace and security was in the supreme interest of both India and Pakistan and of the region as a whole. Despite disagreements there was an agreement of discussing Jammu and Kashmir as part of a composite dialogue between the two countries and to move towards a solution which would be in the mutual interest. In the meeting the two side proposed each other the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) relating to conventional and nuclear warfare, it however did not satisfy Shamshad Ahmed, the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, who held the view that without any forward movement on the Kashmir issue, he said, ‘working for settling other peripheral issues would amount to nothing more than papering over the cracks’. The joint statement issued on the occasion also included the problem of Jammu and Kashmir and said that the two sides reiterated their respective positions. Pakistan’s attitude was that it had a territorial right over Kashmir and that if the persistent use of force or sponsored terrorism does not help it realise its claim, then international brokering certainly would. But India believed that neither sponsored subversion nor external pressure can force it to move on the question of Kashmir. The Indian belief is that the sovereignty and the legality of Jammu and Kashmir is not going to change. However, Pakistan continued to urge India to abandon its negative approach on the Kashmir issue and enter into a substantive and result-oriented dialogue.
Relations between India and Pakistan improved in February 1999 when in the background of the meeting of two Prime Ministers in September 1998 in NewYork, Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived Lahore on the inaugural Delhi-Lahore bus service. Vajpayee’s visit created a nation-wide euphoria and expected to dawn a new era in South Asia. It was an atmosphere of friendship and reconciliation and the hope was natural that once both countries, now nuclear weapon states decide to live as equal sovereign states in a mutually beneficial economic and security framework there are endless possibilities of progress for both. Even before the visit Nawaz Sharif had urged India to go beyond stated position on contentious issues facing the two countries. Pakistan had made it clear that there can be no normalization of relations with India unless the Kashmir issue is first resolved in accordance with Pakistan’s wishes.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of P.G.Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G. Centre, Saharsa-852201. Bihar, India. Email- rajkumarsinghpg@yahoo.com

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