Paris — the Indian government is deciding whether to build a nuclear weapon and could have one ready in a matter of “weeks or months,” Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said in an interview published Monday.

Gandhi, interviewed by the newspaper Le Monde, also criticized President Reagan’s “Star Wars” program as an obstacle to arms reduction and said he would like to have better relations with Israel.

Gandhi said his Cabinet is concerned that India’s longtime rival Pakistan, with which it has fought three wars since 1948, “is very close to having (a nuclear weapon) or that they already have one. Actually, more than one.”

Asked if India had decided to produce its own nuclear weapon, Gandhi replied, “We have not yet reached a decision, but we have already considered it.

‘He said it will be a decision of the Cabinet and “it will be a secret decision.” “In principle, we are against the idea of becoming a nuclear power,” Gandhi said. “We could have done it for the last 10 or 11 years and we have not done it. If we take the decision, it will be a matter of several weeks or several months.”

Gandhi, who is due in Paris Thursday for an official visit, said he hoped to talk with his hosts about “certain big international problems like disarmament and Star Wars,” Reagan’s costly Strategic Defense Initiative designed to shoot down incoming Soviet missiles before they reach their targets.

“We believe that this military program risks adding a new dimension to nuclear war and to complicate even more the disarmament question,” he said.

Gandhi said his government would be happy to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel if the Jewish state were to change its attitudes on certain subjects.

“For the Moment, we think they are very bellicose and that they do not realize the problems that are posed,” Gandhi said.

Article extracted from this publication >>  June 7, 1985