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'India a 'quiet' nuclear power in 1974 itself'

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Jul 23: Senior BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh feels that a repeat of the Sino-Indian military encounter was 'entirely discountable' because China considered India a 'quiet' nuclear weapons capable country after its Pokhran I tests conducted in 1974.

Dedicating two elaborate chapters in his book 'A call to Honour', a autobiography of his various capacities in the NDA government from 1998 to 2004, Mr Singh says the two Asian neighbours, together accounting for 2.4 billion people, almost one fourth of the global population, never confronted each other for centuries. But when that happened in 1962 it had 'coloured' India-China relationship almost indelibly and the episode regrettably defines the relationship.

Quoting south Asian commentator Leo Rose, a doyen among south Asian observers, Mr Singh records that China considered India a nuclear power after Pokhran I tests. It was for this reason why Beijing was 'not really too disturbed' by the 1998 tests and it preferred to demonstrate a degree of 'studied indifference' to Pokhran II, portraying it as a development of not much of consequence for a 'far superior' China.

He writes China had deliberately persistently stayed clear of placing India's tests within narrow bilateral confines and a country specific context because it would amount to inviting the international attention towards the two major unresolved border disputes, Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.

'Aksai Chin', Mr Singh states in the foot note literally means desert of white stones which had a sparse population of 1,600 when China annexed it from India. India asserts this as part of Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir. Its aim was to project itself as a responsible member of the international community and not that of a threatening neighbour to India. Such a posture was vital for its own image and aspired global role.

''Right after the 11 May 1998, it was world reactions that 'exploded' in India's face. They were all, without exception what I had anticipated them to be.'' However China reacted to the Pokhran II tests in a 'relatively muted' manner by expressing 'grave concern' about India conducting nuclear tests, against international trend and as deterimental to peace and stability in the region. China repeatedly accused India of indulging in 'incurable irresponsibility' but did not relish viewing 1998 imbroglio as an issue limited to the confines of South Asia. "If the allegation were to stick it would place them on the other side of the divide and they were already among the P-5 legitimates", Mr Singh surmised.

Recounting his days of post Pokhran II diplomacy, Mr Singh hides no admiration towards his Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan, a person who had risen up the diplomatic ladder after his long years of 'field experience'. "He was very able, astute and diligent representative, well informed about India ... my instinct told me that he is somebody whom I could reach", Mr Singh writes.


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