The Indian government today described as "absolute rubbish" assertions by U.S. intelligence sources, reported in The Washington Post, that India's military leaders proposed a preemptive strike against Pakistani nuclear facilities earlier this year.
The Foreign Ministry said that the "totally false and unfounded" report comes at a time when India is "engaged in a very serious exercise of bringing about a rapprochement between India and Pakistan" following Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq's meeting here Nov. 1 with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Mani Shanker Aiyar, spokesman for the ministry, noted that Pakistan's foreign secretary, Niaz Nayak, is due here Wednesday to complete work on forming a joint commission for normalization of the two countries' relations and to discuss a nonaggression treaty or friendship pact that has been under consideration since 1981.
The Washington Post, citing U.S. intelligence sources, reported this morning that India's concern about Pakistan's nuclear activities has risen in recent weeks and is apparently linked to completion of a clandestine plutonium reprocessing facility on the outskirts of Islamabad.
The Foreign Ministry statement said:
"As the ambassador Ambassador to Washington K. R. Narayanan has already said, the story is a figment of someone's imagination. The report is totally false and unfounded. On the contrary, we are engaged in a very serious exercise of bringing about a rapprochement between India and Pakistan. Following the very cordial, positive and productive talks between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zia ul-Haq in early November, the foreign secretary of Pakistan will be visiting Delhi later this week for finalizing the statutes and modalities of the functioning of an Indo-Pak joint commission which has already been established on principle, as well as for negotiations on the Pakistani proposal of a nonaggression pact and the Indian proposal of a treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation. In light of this, it will be seen that the report attributed to U.S. intelligence sources is absolute rubbish."
Aiyar said that in recent weeks there had been frequent contact between India and Pakistan through diplomatic channels, and that "we have been in touch with them, and on the basis of those contacts we expect to conclude the formal negotiations" on the joint normalization commission "and initial it." The no-war pact, he said, would be discussed over a "somewhat longer haul."
Asked if the reports cited in the article would jeopardize Wednesday's talks, Aiyar replied, "I hope the passion with which it has been denied will put this behind us."
Aiyar said the official denial "relates to the main thrust of the story," including assertions that such a contingency plan was proposed to Gandhi, that she rejected it, and that Indian concern over Pakistan's nuclear activities has increased in recent weeks.
When asked if there is such a contingency plan, he replied that India has many contingency plans, but that "this story cites one particular plan, which unfortunately has historical precedent." He was referring to the June 1981 Israeli air strike on Iraq's nuclear facility near Baghdad.
He would not comment on whether India has any information that the reprocessing plant near Islamabad or the enrichment plant at Kahuta are nearing completion.