US embassy cable - 98NEWDELHI2879

INDIAN REACTION TO PAKISTAN'S MISSILE TEST

Identifier: 98NEWDELHI2879
Wikileaks: View 98NEWDELHI2879 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy New Delhi
Created: 1998-04-07 12:19:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PARM MARR PGOV PREL IN
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 071219Z APR 98
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3000
INFO AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 
AMEMBASSY BEIJING 
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
AMEMBASSY BONN 
AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 
AMCONSUL MUMBAI 
AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 
AMCONSUL CHENNAI 
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 
AMEMBASSY BEIJING 
AMEMBASSY RABAT 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
SECDEF WASHDC//USDP/ISA//
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//J5//
USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//J5//
CSA WASHDC//DACS-ZA//
DIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002879 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SA/INS 
LONDON FOR TUELLER 
RABAT FOR USREY 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/03 
TAGS: PARM, MARR, PGOV, PREL, IN 
SUBJECT: INDIAN REACTION TO PAKISTAN'S MISSILE TEST 
 
REF:  ISLAMABAD 2617 
 
CLASSIFIED CONFIDENTIAL BY NEW DELHI POLITICAL 
COUNSELOR ERIC TUNIS, REASON 1.5 (D). 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  INDIAN OFFICIAL REACTION TO 
PAKISTAN'S RECENT FLIGHT TEST OF THE GHAURI BALLISTIC 
MISSILE (REFTEL) HAS BEEN MEASURED THUS FAR.  THE NEWS 
OF THE PAKISTANI MISSILE TEST RAN SECOND TO THE 
CORONATION OF SONIA GANDHI AS THE NEW LEADER OF THE 
CONGRESS PARTY IN MOST NEWSPAPERS ON APRIL 7.  DEFENSE 
MINISTER GEORGE FERNANDES GAVE A COOL AND DELIBERATE 
STATEMENT TO A PRESS CONFERENCE IN NEW DELHI ON THE 
EVENING OF APRIL 6, NOTING THAT INDIA HAD PRIOR 
INFORMATION OF THE TEST.  FERNANDES DREW A DISTINCTION 
BETWEEN TEST FIRING OF THE MISSILE AND PRODUCTION, BUT 
HE AVOIDED ANY COMMENT ON INDIA'S AGNI MISSILE PROGRAM. 
THE DIRECTOR FOR DISARMAMENT AND SECURITY AFFAIRS 
(DISA) IN THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS CONFIRMED 
THAT THERE HAD BEEN A RECENT SENIOR INTERAGENCY MEETING 
TO DISCUSS INDIA'S RESPONSE TO THE MISSILE TEST.  END 
SUMMARY 
 
PROMINENT COVERAGE--BUT RELATIVELY MILD REACTION 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
2.  (U)  INDIAN NEWSPAPERS AND TELEVISION PROVIDED 
EXTENSIVE BUT NOT INFLAMMATORY COVERAGE OF THE RECENT 
TEST OF PAKISTAN'S GHAURI BALLISTIC MISSILE.  MOST OF 
THE PRESS STORIES DREW HEAVILY FROM INFORMATION 
RELEASED PUBLICLY BY PAKISTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTRY AS 
WELL AS THEIR OWN DECIDEDLY INDIAN ACCOUNT OF FACTS, 
SUCH AS THE TIMES OF INDIA CLAIM THAT THE TEST WAS 
CARRIED OUT AT THE KAHUTA NUCLEAR RESEARCH LABORATORY. 
THIS EVENT HAS PROVIDED ANOTHER FORUM FOR PROMINENT 
HAWKS IN THE MEDIA--SUCH AS IDSA'S DIRECTOR JASJIT 
SINGH--TO RENEW CALLS FOR INDIA'S DEVELOPMENT OF THE 
AGNI BALLISTIC MISSILE SYSTEM.  OTHER COMMENTATORS HAVE 
ALSO PORTRAYED THE GHAURI MISSILE TEST AS CONCLUSIVE 
PROOF THAT THE U.S. HAS FAILED TO STOP COOPERATION 
BETWEEN CHINA AND PAKISTAN IN BALLISTIC MISSILE 
TECHNOLOGY.  INDEED, MUCH OF THE INDIAN PUBLIC AND 
PRIVATE THINKING SEEMS TO REFLECT THE INHERENT DISDAIN 
FOR PAKISTAN'S SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, OF WHICH BRAHMIN 
HINDUS ARE CONVINCED COULD NOT PRODUCE SUCH A MISSILE 
INDEPENDENTLY. 
 
3.  (U)  DEFENSE MINISTER GEORGE FERNANDES WAS THE 
GOI'S MAIN SPOKESMAN FOR THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT ON THIS 
ISSUE.  IN A PRESS CONFERENCE APRIL 6, HE MADE THE 
FOLLOWING POINTS: 
 
--   INDIA'S OWN MISSILE PROGRAM IS CONTINUING. 
PRITHVI MISSILES ARE CAPABLE OF REACHING ANYWHERE IN 
PAKISTAN; 
 
--   INDIA HAD PRIOR WARNING THAT ISLAMABAD HAD BEEN 
PREPARING TO TEST A MEDIUM-RANGE MISSILE; HE DESCRIBED 
THE TEST AS NOT UNEXPECTED BUT OF A SERIOUS NATURE, 
ALTHOUGH INDIA AND PAKISTAN ARE NOT IN A WAR-LIKE 
SITUATION; 
 
--   THERE IS A DISTINCTION BETWEEN TESTING AND 
PRODUCTION; AND 
 
--   IT IS UP TO THE UNITED STATES TO FIND OUT WHAT 
HAPPENED IN SINO-PAKISTANI MISSILE COOPERATION DESPITE 
THE EXISTENCE OF MULTILATERAL CONTROL REGIMES. 
 
 
SOME INSIGHTS FROM MEA 
---------------------- 
4.  (C)  POLOFF MET WITH AJIT KUMAR, DIRECTOR FOR 
DISARMAMENT AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS IN THE 
MINISTRY FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, ON APRIL 7 (SEE SEPTEL 
FOR A DISCUSSION OF CWC ISSUES).  KUMAR CONFIRMED THAT 
SENIOR INDIAN OFFICIALS FROM SEVERAL MINISTRIES HAD MET 
SEVERAL DAYS AGO TO CONSIDER THE SITUATION REGARDING 
THE GHAURI MISSILE TEST.  KUMAR OPINED THAT FERNANDES 
WAS SELECTED TO SPEAK ON BEHALF OF THE INDIAN 
GOVERNMENT BY THIS GROUP; MEA DID NOT INTEND TO MAKE 
ANY STATEMENT ON THE MATTER.  NOT SURPRISINGLY, KUMAR 
AGREED THAT THE MISSILE ISSUE WAS RIPE FOR DISCUSSION 
IN AN INDO-PAKISTANI DIALOGUE, BUT HE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT 
THERE HAD BEEN NO SUBSTANTIVE DISCUSSION OF SECURITY 
ISSUES AS THE TWO SIDES REMAINED DEAD-LOCKED OVER THE 
PROCEDURAL LOGJAM OF ADDRESSING KASHMIR. 

 
COMMENT 
------- 
5. (C)  IN RESPONDING TO THE PAKISTANI MISSILE TEST, WE 
SUSPECT THE INDIANS WILL ALLOW ACTIONS TO SPEAK LOUDER 
THAN WORDS, WITH AN AGNI MISSILE TEST IN THE NEAR 
FUTURE.  IT IS WORTH RECALLING COMMITMENTS BY PREVIOUS 
INDIAN GOVERNMENTS THAT THE AGNI PROGRAM REMAINED A 
HIGH PRIORITY, AND THAT THE INDIANS HAVE BEEN MULLING 
OVER A DECISION TO TEST THE AGNI FOR SOME TIME NOW. 
INDEED, JASJIT SINGH TOLD US THAT HE MADE ONE MORE RUN 
AT PUSHING FOR AN AGNI TEST DURING GUJRAL'S FINAL WEEKS 
IN OFFICE.  THIS BJP-LED GOVERNMENT HAS MADE DEFENSE A 
PROMINENT ISSUE IN ITS AGENDA AND SEVERAL OF ITS 
"SECURITY EXPERTS" HAVE CALLED FOR GREATER DEVELOPMENT 
OF LONGER RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILES TO ADDRESS THE 
PERCEIVED CHINA THREAT.  THE DEFENSE MINISTER'S 
COMMENTS THAT INDIA CAN TARGET ALL OF PAKISTAN WITH 
PRITHVI MISSILES CERTAINLY BOLSTERS ISLAMABAD'S BELIEF 
THAT IT NEEDS LONGER RANGE MISSILES TO KEEP UP WITH ITS 
SOUTH ASIAN NEIGHBOR.  THE UPCOMING VISITS OF SENIOR 
U.S. OFFICIALS WILL PRESENT A USEFUL OPPORTUNITY TO 
URGE RESTRAINT WITH BOTH SIDES, ALTHOUGH NEW DELHI 
ALMOST CERTAINLY WILL CONTINUE TO PORTRAY ITS MISSILE 
PROGRAMS AS A NECESSARY RESPONSE TO THE CHINA THREAT. 
 
 
CELESTE 

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