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Gandhi indirectly says Pakistan lying about N-weapons. Indian leader urges US to try to stop alleged Pakistani program

By Mary Anne WeaverSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / June 5, 1985



New Delhi

In an unusually harsh, direct statement, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for all intents and purposes accused Pakistan Tuesday of lying about its intentions to build a nuclear bomb. ``We must consider how we can counter a nuclear weapon right across our borders,'' Mr. Gandhi told a group of American reporters on the eve of his departure on an overseas tour which includes the United States.

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Pakistan has consistently claimed that it is not building nuclear weapons and that its nuclear research is solely for nuclear power. India and Pakistan, which share a border, have long been rivals.

In the interview, Gandhi discussed a wide range of topics -- Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Sikhs, and relations with the United States and the Soviet Union.

The most important aspect of his visit to Washington, he said, was to develop better understanding between the two governments, which have often been at odds, and, ``from this understanding, everything else flows.''

Gandhi indicated that if the US does not intervene and stop the nuclear weapons program in Pakistan, India might be forced to reconsider its own nuclear option. India exploded a nuclear device, which it described as ``peaceful,'' in the Rajasthan desert in 1974.

``We are not developing a nuclear weapons program at the moment, and we would like not to,'' Gandhi said.

On the issue of countering Pakistan's alleged nuclear arms program, he said, ``There's a lot that the United States can do. You have exempted Pakistan from the Symington Amendment [which blocks US aid to nations pursuing a nuclear arms program]; you have taken a soft line towards the export of certain triggering devices; and only recently you've let that gentleman go back to Pakistan.''

Gandhi was referring to Nazir Ahmed Vaid, convicted in October 1984 in Houston of trying to smuggle 50 krytrons (devices capable of triggering nuclear bombs) out of the US. Mr. Vaid was deported in November.

Gandhi made it clear he would discuss Pakistan's alleged clandestine nuclear dealings when he meets with President Reagan next week. Gandhi also minced no words on his displeasure with the continuing flow of US weaponry to Pakistan, which, he said, upsets the arms balance on the Subcontinent.

``It is not the arms per se,'' Gandhi said. ``It's the higher technological level of weaponry introduced. You give Pakistan the F-16 and we have to get the MIG-27. You give them missiles, and we've got to get a missile to match. It just goes on and on and on.''

The prime minister also had sharp criticism for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Last month the FBI arrested five Sikhs allegedly planning to assassinate Gandhi during his US visit. Gandhi charged that the FBI had not informed the Indian government until seven months after it first uncovered the plot, which also included plans to blow up nuclear power plants in India.

``They [FBI agents] were in touch with these people since November, pretending they were training them, and they knew that they wanted to blow up a number of our critical installations, including nuclear power plants.

``We weren't told. And, even if they couldn't tell us about the assassination plots, they should have told us about the attacks which they were planning on our nuclear power plants.''

Since last month, however, the Indian government has been satisfied, he said, that the Americans will do ``whatever they can'' as a follow-up to the FBI operation.

And, perhaps as a measure of reciprocal goodwill, Gandhi backed away from his earlier hints that Washington appeared intent upon destabilizing India.

On the issue of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Gandhi repeated his controversial position -- that the Soviets were invited into Afghanistan.