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News Report Denied of Nuclear Standoff Between India, Pakistan

March 22, 1993

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ A top Pakistani official denied an investigative report that India and Pakistan were on the verge of nuclear war in 1990. India’s leadership had no comment on the New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh.

The article in the magazine’s March 29 issue says India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars, were at loggerheads three years ago this spring over Kashmir.

President Bush sent a personal envoy to ease tensions in the region, but Hersh said the Bush administration kept details of the crisis secret to conceal U.S. sales of nuclear arms to Pakistan.

Richard Kerr, a former deputy CIA director, told Hersh the confrontation between India and Pakistan was even more frightening than the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Stephen P. Cohen, a former State Department official who studies south Asia for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi, was in India and Pakistan during the standoff. He said two nations may have been on the verge of a battle, but only with conventional weapons.

″The uprising in Kashmir was mostly indigenous and dropping nuclear weapons on each other would not have dealt with the problem,″ he said.

He also said the article overestimates nuclear capabilities on both sides. ″If Pakistan and India had nuclear weapons deployed, we would have heard about it,″ Cohen said.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Mohammed Saddique Kanju, said there was ″nothing new″ to the allegations. He refused to elaborate, except to say tensions were high at the time.

″Yes we have a certain (nuclear) capability, but we have said we will only use it for peaceful purposes,″ Kanju told the Associated Press.

New Delhi had no comment on the article, Foreign Office spokesman Shiv Shankar Mukherjee said.

Jasjit Singh, who heads the government-funded Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, said the article contains no proof that India had nuclear weapons in the spring of 1990.

Singh also claimed the report is part of a Western campaign to force India to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would allow international inspection of its nuclear facilities.

Pakistan and India fought wars in 1948 and 1965 over Kashmir, the northern Himalayan state they both claim, which has been divided by a cease-fire line since 1948. Rebels have been fighting a guerrilla war in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1990.

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