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India Says Rival Forced Nuclear Tests

February 15, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Friday that security problems created by rival Pakistan forced his government to order nuclear tests in 1998.

"It was not our intention to conduct nuclear tests.... But our neighbor creating security problems wasn't acceptable to us," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Vajpayee as saying at a political rally in a southern city.

India carried out a series of nuclear tests in 1998. Pakistan responded with its own tests within weeks. India says it would not use nuclear weapons first.

India accuses Pakistan of arming Islamic militants who seek independence for the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, or the region's merger with Pakistan. Pakistan denies India's charges and says it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the militants.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over control of divided Kashmir, since they won independence from Britain in 1947.

There were fears of possible nuclear war last year after New Delhi blamed Pakistan's spy agency and Pakistan-based rebels for an attack on India's Parliament in December 2001. Intense diplomatic pressure by the United States, Russia, Britain and other countries helped defuse the situation.

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