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Interview of External Affairs Minister Shri Jaswant Singh with Suddesutsche Zeitung, Germany

September 05, 2000

EAM Jaswant Singh's Interview with Suddesutsche Zeitung, Germany

"The world need not fear India"
Nuclear weapons will be deployed for defensive purposes only and not for power games

Mr. Jaswant Singh is the man for all seasons in the Indian Government. After the Hindu nationalist BJP assumed power one and a half year ago, he first became the Finance Minister. But then it was thought that he would be more effective in the post of Foreign Minister. The 61 year old Minister who gives the impression of being moderate and liberal, is trying to dispel the apprehensions surrounding what foreign countries may think are the chauvinistic policies of the BJP. A defence expert, the former Army officer, is considered to be the architect of India's nuclear strategy. Peter Munch spoke with Mr. Jaswant Singh...

SZ: Your party is considered to be a sure winner in the general elections. After your last election victory in 1998, you gave the world shock therapy and projected India as a nuclear power. For what should we be prepared this time?
Singh: You can continue to rely on India to be a factor for stability in Asia and in the world.

SZ: The reality is that India is creating fear in the world - a nuclear weapon state which is entangled in an endless conflict over Kashmir with the nuclear power Pakistan.
Singh: There is no basis for such fears. We have made it clear that our nuclear weapons are not there to be used in such conflicts. We are suffering due to Pakistan's hostile attitude. But every time we are confronted by aggression, we have reacted with utmost restraint. Rather than being worried because of India, the world should display more understanding for the challenges we face.

SZ: What will India do with its nuclear weapons?
Singh: they are purely defensive. No first use, no use against non-nuclear weapon states.

SZ: When and under what conditions will India sign the CTBT?
Singh: There are no conditions. After the elections, a broad political consensus on this issue needs to be created. We have already announced an unilateral moratorium.

SZ: Will you sign even before Pakistan?
Singh: We are not influenced by Pakistan or any other country in our planning.

SZ: Have the nuclear tests last year changed India's position in international politics?
Singh: It has certainly got us more strategic freedom and more autonomy. That was also our objective.

SZ: And what are your intentions now? A leading role in the region, a permanent seat at the table of the nuclear powers in the table of the nuclear powers in the UN Security Council?
Singh: I do not think that we should link that with this. We do not play any power games. But a country of our size, population and economic potential would definitely have to be considered for a seat in the Security Council.

SZ: Isn't UN or other international mediation helpful in the Kashmir conflict?
Singh: No. Indians and Pakistanis speak the same language. We do not require any interpreter. We ourselves understand - much better than any third party - where the difficulties are.

SZ: But the dialogue with Pakistan is deadlocked?
Singh: We are ready for renewal. Pakistan is not. At the UN General Assembly in New York, my colleague from Islamabad refused to hold talks.

SZ: What do you expect from Pakistan. After the last Kashmir adventure and the shameful retreat, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is under enormous pressure from the Islamists. Is that a threat for India as well?
Singh: We are naturally concerned about it. But I do not want to speculate on what could happen there.

SZ: During the recent conflict in Kashmir, a shift in the axis became apparent. Pakistan was reprimanded by its old ally, America. India received support. Does this give an idea of the future?
Singh: I believe that in international politics, yesterday's network of relations is not valid for the decades to come. There has to be a change in this regard all over the world. And a very significant aspect here is better cooperation and better understanding between the USA and India. Complete harmony, of course, is not possible. Talks with representatives of the American government in the recent past, have been, however, the best we have had in the last 15 years.


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