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Won’t use nukes first, says Zardari, but adds a rider

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said today that Pakistan will never be the first to use nuclear weapons but then quickly added Islamabad’s traditional rider: that India should sign the South Asian Non-Nuclear Treaty to free South Asia of nuclear weapons.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said today that Pakistan will never be the first to use nuclear weapons but then quickly added Islamabad’s traditional rider: that India should sign the South Asian Non-Nuclear Treaty to free South Asia of nuclear weapons.

Experts said linking the two is a non-starter and Zardari’s comments do not appear to represent a doctrinal change.

Addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit via video-conferencing from Islamabad, Zardari said, “I am against nuclear warfare altogether.” When asked if Pakistan would adopt the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, he said, “Most definitely, yes, we hope we will never get into that position (of using nuclear weapons). I am for a South Asian Non-nuclear Treaty.”

“I can get my Parliament to agree to it right away,” he said. “Can you (India) get your Parliament to agree to it?”

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India, which announced a no-first-use policy soon after the 1998 nuclear tests, has proposed a no-first-use treaty to Pakistan but Islamabad rejected it arguing that its nuclear weapons programme is India-specific and it would keep its options open for parity given India’s superiority in conventional arms.

In turn, Pakistan has always pushed for a South Asian treaty to freeze nuclear weapons in the region, aimed at locking the Indian nuclear programme. New Delhi has rejected it saying it has a wider concern which includes China. Former Indian Ambassador to the UN Arundhati Ghose, who played a pivotal role in New Delhi not signing the CTBT, told The Sunday Express, “It seems that it’s a general answer and is not a change in the nuclear doctrine of Pakistan’s establishment. He is not speaking of no-first-use policy, and by making it dependent on the South Asian treaty, it’s rhetoric. This is nothing new.”

Zardari, during his half-hour interaction, made all the right noises. To loud applause, he said: “There is a little bit of Indian in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistani in every Indian and I speak today as a Pakistani, as much as the little Indian in me.”

First published on: 22-11-2008 at 01:42 IST
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