India-Pak talks to prioritise N-safety

Agence France Presse

New Delhi, June 10:

India will give high priority to forging nuclear confidence-building measures with Pakistan during upcoming meetings, foreign minister Natwar Singh said today. “The most important thing on our agenda should be the nuclear dimension because when Congress remitted office in 1996 we (India) were not a nuclear power,” Singh said. The Press Trust of India news agency said Singh made the statement to a television channel when asked if the five-decade-old dispute over Kashmir was one of the main issues between India and Pakistan. The government of Hindu nationalist prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee conducted nuclear tests in May 1998. Pakistan responded a few days later with tests of its own. The two countries have refused to sign up to nuclear non-proliferation treaties because they are not formally recognised as nuclear powers.

They launched confidence-building measures and dialogue after a landmark agreement between Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and Vajpayee in January to resolve all issues, including the festering Kashmir dispute. The left-leaning Congress-led coalition, which defeated Vajpayee’s coalition in the April/May elections, has pledged to continue with the peace process and announced that officials from the two sides would meet on June 19 and 20 in New Delhi for talks on nuclear confidence-building measures. In the television interview, Singh called for a “new beginning” in bilateral ties. “I would only say that we will appeal and request Pakistan that this road we have travelled over 57 years hasn’t produced the results that you want, the results that we want,” he said when asked about Pakistan’s view that Kashmir should be solved first. “Let’s make a new beginning.”