15 May 1998
(Responding to India is not in Pakistan's interests) (630) By Wendy S. Ross USIA White House Correspondent Birmingham, England -- President Clinton says he hopes the leaders of the world's major industrial countries plus Russia participating in the May 15-17 G-8 summit will help find a way to deter Pakistan from detonating a nuclear device. The subject of India's underground detonation of five nuclear devices May 11-13 figured prominently in Clinton's May 15 bilateral discussions with the leaders of Japan and France. "An arms race on the Indian subcontinent in nuclear weapons is not in the interest of sustaining the future of Pakistan," President Clinton told reporters as he sat down for talks with Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Acknowledging that Pakistani leaders are "under a lot of pressure" to detonate a nuclear weapon of their own, Clinton said he hopes a way can be found to make it "politically possible" for Pakistan "not to go forward" with such a test. "If we work hard we might be able to find a way that the Pakistani people would also support, to avoid this," Clinton said. "It would be a great act of statesmanship and restraint" on Pakistan's part if it did not respond to India's actions, he said. "When you put yourself in Pakistan's position, you can imagine the overwhelming political pressure that must be building up on them at home." Clinton said "the Pakistanis have a genuine grievance, a legitimate grievance against the United States" on the matter of F16 fighter planes that the United States sold to Pakistan but never delivered, even though Pakistan had paid for them. The reason is that U.S. law affecting the sale of such planes changed after the transaction with Pakistan had been initiated and paid for. "Because of the later findings, we couldn't deliver the planes but they couldn't get their money back," he said, indicating that he is working on a way to resolve this. Later in the morning, as he sat down for luncheon talks with France's President Jacques Chirac, Clinton again said he hopes the world leaders attending the G-8 Summit "can convince Pakistan not to engage in testing" of nuclear weapons in response to India. "I'd like everyone to sign on to the Comprehensive Test Ban and work together to reduce the nuclear threat. There are ways for a great nation to preserve its security without nuclear weapons and that's what I want to focus on," Clinton told reporters. The luncheon, hosted by the French President, included National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger and Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg. Following India's underground nuclear tests, President Clinton moved quickly to impose a number of congressionally mandated economic and military sanctions on India. Clinton phoned Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to urge restraint and sent Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and US General Anthony Zinni to Islamabad to talk with Pakistani leaders. Talbott is expected in London May 17 for the bilateral meeting between Clinton and Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin. National Security Advisor Berger told reporters in Germany, where Clinton stopped before coming to Birmingham, that the United States would seek a strong statement of condemnation of India's action at the Group of Eight summit. Berger said the President talked while in Germany with Chancellor Helmut Kohl about India's tests. Clinton hopes other countries "will both make their views known in very clear and unequivocal terms and also take tangible steps to manifest those so that the consequence of this is significant" and will deter other countries from similar acts, Berger said. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry told reporters late May 15 that he does not know if there is an effort by the G-8 leaders to address the question of sanctions against India. He pointed out that Japan "has taken steps" to register its displeasure with India's action, and others may be considering steps too. He said "President Clinton wants to see a good, sober discussion of this issue this evening" when all eight leaders meet together for their first summit discussion. McCurry said Clinton "joins in the expression that (Britain's) Prime Minister (Tony) Blair has made that there should be some statement of condemnation for the course that the government of India has pursued." But McCurry said the leaders at the G-8 Summit "are not in a position to do much except discuss an issue and then make some expression based on their discussions."