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India Calls for Global "No First Use" Nuke Policy

India has joined its voice to calls for a global policy on "no first use" of nuclear weapons as part of its support for a worldwide program of nuclear disarmament, the Press Trust of India reported Monday (see GSN, Feb. 12).

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said in London that New Delhi has "identified some initiatives that I believe could be explored further as building blocks of a new global, verifiable nuclear disarmament framework."

Those areas include a worldwide pact under which nuclear-armed nations would pledge not to be the first in a conflict to launch their nuclear weapons and promise to not use their strategic arsenal on nations without a nuclear weapons capability, she said.

"We feel encouraged by some recent positive steps," Rao said. "President (Barack) Obama's administration has signaled U.S. willingness to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its nuclear strategy and to work towards a nuclear weapon-free world. The renewed debate under way on this issue harmonizes with our long-held positions" (Press Trust of India/Outlookindia.com, Feb. 22).

Rao is set to meet tomorrow with her Pakistani equivalent, Salman Bashir. The two are expected to discuss a process by which their countries can improve stalled bilateral dialogue, Reuters reported.

Peace talks between the two nuclear-armed rivals began in 2004 but were halted in late 2008 following concerns by New Delhi that Islamabad was not doing enough to weed out the Pakistani-based extremists linked to the terrorist attacks that killed more than 160 people in the Indian city of Mumbai (see GSN, Feb. 22).

"We hope we can build, in a graduated manner, better communication and a serious and responsive dialogue to address issues of concern between our two countries," Rao said.

The "essential focus" of the discussions would be convincing Islamabad to pursue extremist groups responsible for assaults in India, Rao said. "Terror groups ... continue to recruit, train and plot attacks from safe havens across our borders," she said.

Experts thinks tomorrow's discussions could lead to additional talks between the two South Asian nations' top diplomats and possibly even an informal face-to-face of their prime ministers at a April regional meeting of South Asian countries in Bhutan.

"Delhi is approaching these talks with a lot of caution," International Institute for Strategic Studies South Asia expert Rahul Roy-Chaudhury said.

"I think there will be clearly a sense that these talks should continue," he said.

The discussions are also viewed as an attempt to reduce serious mutual suspicion over each country's actions in Afghanistan as well as to soften the fallout of any future terror assault on India that could otherwise push the two nations toward another armed conflict (Myra MacDonald, Reuters, Feb. 23).

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