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May 15, 1998

Western Hemisphere nations on Friday stood united against nuclear tests that the government of India had conducted recently, repudiating the action as a threat to international security.

A declaration crafted by the Organization of American States (OAS) in its Permanent Council's Committee on Hemispheric Security--the initiative of the United States delegation to the organization--called on the Indian government to refrain from further testing and at the same time called on all states around the world to exercise "maximum restraint" and to refrain from nuclear testing. It also called on India, and all other states that had not yet done so, to accede to the international treaty on nuclear non-proliferation and to "sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay and without conditions."

A strong statement was delivered by Canada's ambassador to the OAS, Dr. Peter Boehm, who insisted that "anything less than a strong denunciation of India's nuclear weapons tests and program could have serious consequences for the international nuclear non-proliferation regime."

He went on to state that the Indian action--in which some five nuclear tests were conducted in recent days--also carried implications for this [Western] hemisphere. "What India has done," he said, "threatens not only regional stability in South Asia, but rather the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime," a position shared by the many other OAS member delegations that took the floor to register support for the declaration.

The delegations spoke after hearing India's ambassador to the United States, Naresh Chandra, offer his country's rationale for the tests. India, explained Mr. Chandra, was under obligation to provide the country's 960 million inhabitants security against threats from neighboring countries. It was an unbroken national policy that had not intention of aggression nor offense, he added. He also declared his country's strong opposition to the OAS declaration. Specifically, Mr. Chandra, who is also the chief observer for India to the OAS, pointed to language contained in the declaration about threats to international security and regional stability. India stood for peace and security, he argued.

For his part, the United States ambassador to the OAS, Victor Marrero, restated the declaration's clear and strong message to the government of India: "We are united and opposed to their action which directly contravenes important principles the countries of this hemisphere have committed themselves to in the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."

Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador, Lionel Hurst, who chairs the Hemispheric Security Committee, recalled the dread that had gripped Caribbean nations as the 1961 nuclear stand-off that came to be known as the Cuban missile crisis unfolded. "This is a situation we don't wish to face again at all." He also shared the concern raised by the Barbadian ambassador, Dr. Courtney Blackman, about the very hazardous nuclear wastes that had been transshipped through Caribbean Sea lanes. Endorsing the present declaration, Dr. Blackman stressed, however, the need for similarly strong condemnation of the use of Caribbean waters to move nuclear wastes.

Ambassador Hurst also spoke for a number of OAS delegations, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Haiti, Guyana, Mexico, St. Kitts and Nevis, Paraguay and Uruguay, when he spoke of the danger of nuclear weapons: "We believe that these weapons are so very dangerous that it is immoral to threaten their use... or to develop them so that they could be used as threats or be deployed."

Ambassador Michael Arneaud of Trinidad and Tobago, as Council chairman, steered the discussions on the declaration which was passed by consensus.

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