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Statement by Official Spokesman

1. We have taken note of the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China on 14 May in Beijing with regard to the nuclear tests conducted by India on 11 May and 13 May 1998.

2. As is well known, India's relations with our neighbours have shown marked improvement in recent years. The trend in South Asia is towards greater regional cooperation and economic integration. In this context, accusations that India is seeking hegemony in South Asia are baseless, unwarranted and only hinder the process of relaxation of tensions and promotion of peace and stability through regional cooperation.

3. India has legitimate security concerns. India cannot but take into account the offensive nuclear weapon and missile capability in our region nor the well documented history of proliferation through clandestine acquisition, taking place in our neighbourhood. Assistance from external sources to the clandestine nuclear weapons and missile development programme in our immediate neighbourhood is well known. All this is itself a clear refutation of the allegation about the Indian tests triggering off a nuclear arms race in South Asia.

4. China's own record in respect of international opinion in continuing its programme of nuclear tests until considered necessary for the purpose of developing its nuclear weapons, is well known. Over a period of three decades between 1964 and 1996, China conducted 45 nuclear tests, of which 23 were atmospheric. On 8 June 1996, while announcing that it would conduct yet another test, China stated that "In the world today, there still exist huge nuclear arsenals and the threat of a nuclear war caused by the first use of nuclear weapons. Against such a background, for the purpose of the supreme interests of the state and the nation, China cannot but conduct the necessary and minimum number of nuclear tests. We have all along exercised maximum restraint in conducting nuclear tests and the number of tests we have conducted is extremely limited." It is strange that China is not willing to concede the same logic to India that it applies to itself. If China with a large nuclear arsenal built with the experience of over 44 tests felt compelled to test again in July 96, for its own security, then it should be possible to understand the rationale for India conducting a limited number of tests after a 24 year long period of voluntary restraint.

5. As has been pointed out in our earlier statements, India has carried out a limited number of tests in a planned series. These tests do not pose any threat to any country. India remains committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons in a time-bound framework on a comprehensive, universal non-discriminatory and verifiable basis. We are willing to consider being an adherent to some of the undertakings of CTBT but this cannot be in a vacuum. We remain open to a dialogue in this regard.

6. India and China are two of the world's largest and most populous countries. We see our relationship as one in which the two sides would be responsive to dialogue to resolve outstanding differences and to the development of friendly, cooperative, good neighbourly and mutually beneficial relationship with China, our largest neighbour.

New Delhi
16 May 1998