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(From BBC Monitoring International Reports)
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has said India views its nuclear weapons as a credible deterrent, not a means of aggression. The "highly complex circumstances" India faced in the region had compelled it to develop nuclear arms, he said. In an interview with the London-based paper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Vajpayee made it clear that India remained committed to not using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states and that it was not engaged in an arms race with anyone. On relations with Pakistan, the prime minister said it was Pakistan's responsibility to re-establish trust and confidence by ending its support to cross-border "terrorism". Only then could India resume dialogue with Pakistan. The following is the text of an interview with the Indian prime minister by Taher Amiri, at the prime minister's "official residence", published by London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat on 4 September; date of interview not given
[Taheri] The first interview you have given to the Arab press through Al-Sharq al-Awsat is an opportunity for the readership in the Arab and Muslim worlds to learn about your points of view first-hand.
[Vajpayee] India fully appreciates the importance of the world's Islamic community and its contributions to Islam. India has, since its independence, set up and developed ties with the Muslim nations. Today, the bilateral ties between our country and the Islamic nations may be described as rich and strong and there are not any disagreements between India and any of them, with the exception of our neighbour Pakistan. There are outstanding problems between India and Pakistan but these do not impact on our ties with the Muslim world.
India has always had a strong and constant position on the Palestinian question. We have consistently taken the view that the Palestinians have a right to justice and we were one of the first nations to support the creation of a free and independent Palestinian state. Of course you might say that there is much to be done on that score and I would agree with you. For this reason, our government pays special attention to forging rich and more profound ties with all of the Muslim nations.
[Taheri] When you first became prime minister in 1996 you undertook to carry out drastic changes that should put India at the doorstep of a new era. You have been the first person to become the prime minister of India for three consecutive terms since Nehru. Would you say that your administration has succeeded in changing India's domestic and foreign policies?
[Vajpayee] It is impossible for drastic changes to take place in a country like India within the space of such a brief period and that applies particularly in the area of foreign relations. Since our country's independence back in 1947, it has been grounded in a firm foundation of consensus and continuity. This is not to say that our foreign policy is cast in an unchangeable mould. Our country's policies are dynamic and they respond to regional and world developments. The past four and a half years, which is the life to date of our government, have seen us try to add new dimensions to India's foreign policy. For example we have sought to look east. It is a policy based on a desire on our part to bolster our country's ties with the nations of Southeast Asia and East Asia. We have also taken the "initiative of the new road of freedom", the idea being to expand our relations with the nations of Central Asia. Naturally, we are working on deepening and firming up our ties with our traditional friends around the world, including the Arab states. Our policy of change has become clearer, which means that there has been acceleration in the economic reforms and these are taking place in steady steps. That promises a successful tackling of the challenges of globalization.
[Taheri] Your government has set the year 2005 as the deadline by which the basic needs of water and health care and basic education and a road network that link the countryside to the urban centres should be met. Do you think that you will be able to meet that deadline?
[Vajpayee] We have launched numerous long-term and ambitious initiatives, perhaps the grandest of which is in the area of the communications both on the digital and physical fronts. Within the short space of no more than two years or three years the communications map in India has changed. There has been an addition of 1,000 lines every one minute and this year should see us introduce around 13 million new lines, of which 7.5 million will be …