India Says Nuclear Talks Having Results

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - The US Senate's failure to ratify a treaty banning nuclear testing had an effect on India's attempts to achieve national consensus on signing, India said Sunday.

"The U.S. Senate's rejection of the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] does change the situation in the sense that it is going to influence public opinion in India as in other countries," Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said.

"We have been working for a national consensus on the signing of the CTBT," he added.

Nonetheless, Vajpayee said talks between India and the U.S. on nuclear issues were beginning to show results.

"Our dialogue since the summer of last year has been the most serious and substantive engagement between India and the U.S. since independence [in 1947]. As a result, our security concerns are now better understood."

Since India tested nuclear devices in May of last year, Washington and New Delhi have been engaged in a series of arms controls talks, led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh. They are due to meet again in January.

Singh said at the weekend Washington now recognized that "India shall maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent as determined by us and there is no longer any talk of rolling back."

Singh said India had opposed the CTBT in 1996, since signing then would have undermined India's nuclear option. Last year's tests had been in response to the nuclear program pursued by neighbor and rival Pakistan.

But a voluntary moratorium adopted by India after the tests constituted "de facto acceptance of the CTBT."

In August, India released a draft nuclear doctrine that envisaged a sophisticated nuclear arsenal based on aircraft, ships and mobile land-based missiles, in the face of regional security threats.

In response to criticism of the draft, Singh stressed that India had "no desire to pursue an open-ended nuclear weapons program."

Vajpayee emphasized that the draft was just that, and that "any criticism of the draft paper and any attempt to describe it as the accepted doctrine is unwarranted."

India and Pakistan have gone to war three times since attaining independence 52 years ago. Both countries tested nuclear devices in May 1998 and have been subjected to international sanctions as a result.