Ambassador Naresh Chandra's interview 
with Judy Woodruff of CNN

Aired May 13, 1998 - 6:30 p.m. ET 

WOODRUFF: For Indian government perspective on the day's developments I'm joined here in Washington by India's ambassador to the United States, Naresh Chandra.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us. President Clinton has called these tests a terrible mistake. Did your government reconsider at all before carrying out the second round of tests?

CHANDRA: It should be -- the decision was taken to conduct a series of tests, and the idea was to develop a database which provided

a basis for our scientists to update the technology for nuclear weapons development, and also to have a database which would enable them to carry on computer simulation. And we have reached a stage now where we feel that further testing can be stopped. And that is what the press statement today by my government says that this series of tests is completed.

Only one point I would like to clarify, that it is not that a decision was taken to do three tests and there was a hue and cry, and we disregarded it and did two more, what we have done is, we have carried out what was absolutely decided in the first instance, and a time interval was necessary between the two.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, we heard in the report from Wolf Blitzer traveling with President Clinton, U.S. officials are saying there was a massive campaign of deception on the part of the Indian government to conceal all this from the United States and other countries.

CHANDRA: That is not true. You see, what happened is, that long-term strategic decisions are taken at a certain level. And the interlocutors who are operating and conducting relations at a transactional levels carry on their negotiations on the basis of...

WOODRUFF: You mean diplomats?

CHANDRA: Diplomats, yes, ambassadors, foreign secretary. Now, the -- a test of this kind is conducted at a certain level of preparedness. Of this preparedness, in India has existed for some years now. And what happens is that governments have the chance not only to order a certain level of cooperation, but to withdraw from a decision. So until very late, it would not be known to the officials that a final irrevocable decision has been take to go ahead.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying there wasn't deception that was going on?

CHANDRA: Certainly not. This kind of thing can be attached to any government which has conducted tests. Nobody makes a huge hue and cry in an advanced program notification.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Ambassador, as you know, there are people who are saying the world is just a more dangerous place today because of these tests. Pakistan is likely now to test. Is India responsible for the fact that the world may be more dangerous?

CHANDRA: I think, this is superficial. I've been hearing this kind of thing -- I don't think that's what make the world a dangerous place -- that it's weapons will make the world dangerous place. And we have -- we're living in a tough neighborhood. We have weapons to our north, and there are reports that there are weapons to our west. So to blame the test, is not...

WOODRUFF: You're talking about China. You're talking about Pakistan.

CHANDRA: Everybody. Everybody has -- all the nuclear weapon states have a huge arsenal. It is weapons which are dangerous. Tests by themselves are nothing.

WOODRUFF: Will it have been worth it if Pakistan now goes and conducts nuclear tests?

CHANDRA: I will put it this way, the government of India is responsible for the national security and defense of close to a billion people. We are living in neighborhood where we are faced with nuclear arsenal to our north, a very deep relationship between two neighbors which has military aspects, including nuclear technology transfer and missile transfers. In such a situation, to expect that the security of the Indian people would be preserved without having any kind of matching deterrence is something I leave to experts to decide.

WOODRUFF: And just quickly, the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, Japan, other countries -- will these cause India to rethink future tests?

CHANDRA: Future tests, we have already -- these two things are not connected. India, a country of more than 960 million people, is not going to change its national security policy. I am not saying that we welcome these unfortunate sanctions, but I would like to dispel the thought that the Indian people would compromise on their national security by these sanctions -- is a most unfortunate assumption. It is false.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Ambassador, Naresh Chandra of India, we thank you very much for being with us.

CHANDRA: Thank you.