Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 167

Moscow has reacted strongly in recent days to the September 6 announcement by Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif that his country has the right to acquire nuclear weapons in order to ensure its security. Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, along with the ministry’s chief spokesman, Valery Nesterushkin, have restated Moscow’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, and Nesterushkin has warned that the Pakistani announcement could further destabilize already tense relations between India and Pakistan. Observers in Moscow, meanwhile, suggested that it was hardly a coincidence that Sharif’s announcement came during a visit to India by Russia’s atomic energy minister, Viktor Mikhailov. Interviewed by reporters in New Delhi, Mikhailov on September 8 reiterated that the two countries intend to boost their cooperation in the area of nuclear energy. (Russian agencies, September 8)

Sharif’s announcement seems more likely to have been occasioned by the outbreak in recent weeks of a new round of border hostilities between India and Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region. India last year refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty banning all nuclear weapons tests, and Pakistan has stated that it will not sign the treaty until New Delhi does. India exploded an atomic device in 1974 but says it has no nuclear weapons; Pakistan is widely believed to be capable of quickly assembling a nuclear bomb. Moscow’s sympathies in the dispute clearly lie with India, which has emerged as the largest buyer of Russian arms and which is seen by Moscow as one of its key allies in Asia. China, another of post-Soviet Russia’s important strategic partners, is believed by many, particularly in the U.S., to be a supplier of nuclear technology to Pakistan. That issue is likely to come to a head at a Sino-American summit next month, when a key topic of discussion will be possible implementation of a 1985 agreement that would make American-made nuclear power reactors available to China. (Reuter, September 8)

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