Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, whose 11-month tenure ended March 19, said India has long tried to avoid testing a nuclear device in hopes of achieving nuclear disarmament worldwide.
"We were trying to see that [a test] could be avoided. I was talking to all the visiting leaders," he said May 12.
Mr. Gujral consistently tried to persuade nuclear weapons states to denuclearize. "In my discussions with the American president [Clinton]..., I had emphasized this point. Unfortunately, the replies were always evasive and always nonconvincing," he said.
"It has always been known that India has the ... capability and we were only exercising self-restraint in the interest of denuclearization of the world," he added.
He said Indian nuclear scientists had reached "certain conclusions" using computer simulations. "But those conclusions needed ground testing."
He said he hoped the US and other nations would not impose economic sanctions on India. "I don't think they should do it because it would be morally wrong. Those who have it want to take action against those who are trying only to assert their sovereign right," he said.
Gujral said the May 11 nuclear tests had decisively moved India away from a "Pakistan-centric" foreign policy. "We live in a much wider world.... We are seeing Diego Garcia [British-ruled island in the Indian Ocean] which has nuclearized.... We are seeing nuclearization across Tibet. India's consideration and security concerns are much wider."
Gujral said he was confident India's tests would not trigger an arms race. "Now it will be easier to stop the race since deterrents are effectively demonstrated.... Basically, a new stage can come between India and Pakistan when wars are ruled out."