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Narasimha Rao wanted no-nuke deal with Pak: US Senator

By Lalit K Jha
Last updated on: September 18, 2009 14:45 IST
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Three years before Pokhran II nuclear tests in 1998, India was interested in negotiations with Pakistan on elimination of atomic weapons from the subcontinent and was receptive to United States' mediation in this regard, an influential American Senator claimed on Friday.

Senator Arlen Spector has claimed that the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao was interested in working out such a deal with Pakistan.

The Senator said this in a letter written to the then US President Bill Clinton on August 28, 1995. Excerpts of this letter were released to the media on Friday, which was also read out by him on the floor of the US Senate.

Spector wrote to Clinton from Damascus on his way back from his trip to New Delhi and Islamabad during which he met Narasimha Rao and late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Spector claimed that both Rao and Bhutto were receptive to the idea of US mediation in this regard. "From our conversations with Prime Minister Rao and Prime Minister Bhutto, it is my sense that both would be very receptive to discussions initiated and brokered by the United States as to nuclear weapons and also delivery missile systems," Spector said reading out from the letter.

Bringing to the notice of Clinton, the discussions he had with the two South Asian leaders, Spector wrote, "Prime Minister Rao stated that he would be very interested in negotiations which would lead to the elimination of any nuclear weapons on the subcontinent within 10 or 15 years, including renouncing first use of such weapons."

Spector wrote, "His interest in such negotiations with Pakistan would cover bilateral talks, a regional conference which would include the United States, China, and Russia, in addition to India and Pakistan."

Referring to his meeting with Bhutto, Spector wrote, "When we asked Prime Minister Bhutto when she had last talked to Prime Minister Rao, she said she had had no conversations with him during her tenure as prime minister."

Spector said, "Prime Minister Bhutto did say that she had initiated a contact through an intermediary but that was terminated when a new controversy arose between Pakistan and India."

The Senator said he visited India and Pakistan in 1995 as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Senator Hank Brown of Colorado accompanied him during the trip.

"When we were in India, we met with Prime Minister Rao, who brought up the subject of a potential nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan and said he would like to see the subcontinent nuclear free. He knew we were en route to Pakistan to see Prime Minister Bhutto and he asked us to take up the subject with her, which we did," Spector said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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