ISLAMABAD, Dec 28, Reuter: A bid by Pakistan to persuade six South Asian neighbors to promise not to build nuclear bombs foundered on Indian objections on Wednesday, diplomats said.

They said Pakistan wanted a commitment to forswear nuclear weapons included in a declaration to be made on Saturday by the heads of government of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

But India, at a Foreign Minister’s meeting to prepare for the summit of the South Asian Association for regional cooperation (SAARC), refused to alter its position that nuclear disarmament ‘was a global issue to be tackled globally.

A senior Indian Official told Reuters his country also objected to a regional pact that excluded China, one of the five nuclear powers. India and China fought a brief border war in 1962.

A Senior Official said the seven Foreign Ministers had agreed on a compromise which would express SAARC’s desire to see a region free of nuclear weapons without making it an obligatory commitment.

India exploded a nuclear device in 1974, but has not done so since and insists its Nuclear Program is entirely peaceful.

So does Pakistan, with which India has fought three wars since: the two nations became independent of Britain in 1947 after the partition of the Indian subcontinent.

But even the United States, Pakistan’s main source of Aid and modern conventional arms, has said publicly that Islamabad is on the threshold of putting a bomb together.

However the mutual suspicions Pakistan and India appear to be waning, especially on the nuclear issue, Officials of both countries said on Wednesday, they were discussing an agreement under which they would promise not to attack each other’s nuclear installations.

Pakistan Officials said they hoped it would be signed during the three-day SAARC Summit starting on Thursday which brings Rajiv Gandhi to Islamabad on the first working visit to Pakistan by an Indian Prime Minister since 1960.

He is to have at least two sessions of talks with newly elected Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

A Senior Indian Official said it was not certain the accord, which would bea major breakthrough in relations between the two countries, would be ready for signature during the summit.

Article extracted from this publication >>  January 6, 1989