The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 17, 1998 · Page 12
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 12

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 17, 1998
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Page 12
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A12 SUNDAY, MAY 17, 1998 NUCLEAR TESTING THE SALINA JOURNAL Short Earthly rumble upsets global balance Vinyl Replacement Windows & Doors GRAND REOPENING Foray into nuclear arena puts India in company of world's elite powers By ARTHUR MAX The Associated Press NEW DELHI, India — It was just a five-second rumble under the desert of western India, but it shook the world's geopolitical structure to the core. When India detonated three underground nuclear explosions on Monday and two more Wednesday, it upset the equation of global nuclear power and shifted the regional balance in one of the world's most unstable areas. Not since China exploded its first warhead in 1964 has a new country joined the elite group of five nations that acknowledge having nuclear arms. In 1974, India tested "a peaceful nuclear device" — a fiction that allowed a comfortable ambiguity about whether it was building a weapon. All pretenses are gone now. India said the new tests show it can equip a complete nuclear arsenal of tactical warheads for battlefield uses and strategic payloads that could destroy cities. The international response was swift and hostile. From a fearful and angry Pakistan came threats to retaliate with its own test explosion and a nuclear arms race. India has fought three wars with Pakistan since 1947, and the two armies still skirmish along the cease-fire line. India's explosions halted a nascent U.S.-India dialogue meant to expand contacts on global issues. Washington was compelled by law to impose economic sanctions to punish India for what President Clinton called "a terrible mistake." Other nations followed suit. The tests also aroused nervousness in neighboring China, whose "India has always adhered to the spirit oftheNPT." C. Uday Bhaskar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis own nuclear arsenal had much to do with India proceeding with the explosions at the Pokaran test site in the Thar Desert. India bristled at the international criticism, hurling blame back at the nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain — which have declined to give up their atomic weapons. Although India has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it claims to have abided by its principles: It did not act on its ability to build a weapon — until now; it has not transferred or exported nuclear technology; and it never has threatened to use nuclear force. "India has always adhered to the spirit of NPT. None of the other five can say that," said C. Uday Bhaskar, deputy director of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. India says the test explosions achieved vital objectives. For one, India established a nuclear deterrent — not directed at Pakistan but at China. India was humiliated by China in a speedy, one-sided war in 1962 that left a border dispute simmering. India does not seek nuclear parity with China, said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. India does not need to match China's nuclear arsenal any more than China must match the number of warheads in the American or Russian arsenals, the source said. China, with 395 warheads, is in the second league of nuclear firepower, along with France, 449 weapons, and Britain, 260. Russia has 7,249 strategic warheads and the United States has 7,139. However, another conflict with China seems far less probable than a fourth Indo-Pakistan war erupting over the unending territorial dispute over Kashmir. U.S. intelligence experts long have considered South Asia to be the likeliest scene of a nuclear war. In considering whether to conduct the test explosions, India's government anticipated Pakistan would respond with its own nuclear test — and was not dismayed by the thought. India assumes Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and a test merely would take the bomb out of the closet, he said. The Institute for Science and International Security in Washington estimated in March that India has enough weapons-grade plutonium for 74 warheads. Pakistan has enough uranium to produce 10, but nearly could close the gap in eight years, the group said. Bhaskar, the defense analyst, said a Pakistani test might increase regional stability, not undermine it. "It would make the situation more transparent, give Pakistan more confidence and provide an opportunity to stabilize the relationship at a higher level," he said. And it might put disarmament on the agenda again — another gain, from India's viewpoint. India was one of three countries to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty when it was endorsed by 158 nations in a 1996 vote at the United Nations. The other two were Libya and India's client state Bhutan. 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