The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - all nuclear powers - want to prevent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan from tipping the region into war, a US spokesman said yesterday. "The purpose of this initial session would be to develop a co-ordinated common approach to this grave situation," James Rubin said. "Hopefully, with the major powers in the world having taken on this issue in this way ... we will be in a position to urge them successfully to do more to see that their underlying dispute does not cause the kind of horrifying conflict that is now imaginable."
Foreign ministers, including Robin Cook, have tentatively agreed to meet, though a time and place are still being discussed.
The UN Security Council yesterday attacked Pakistan for its tests, which followed two weeks after India's. It called on both countries to "avoid any steps or statements that could lead to further instability or impede their bilateral dialogue".
India tried to calm the stormy waters, saying that it would not join in an arms race. The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, played down the Pakistani tests, saying that they "do not pose any new threat to our national security". Pakistan's Foreign Ministry secretary, Shamshad Ahmad, told ambassadors that Pakistan, too, did not seek conflict.
Britain yesterday withdrew its High Commissioner in Islamabad, Sir David Dain. A similar action was taken when India conducted nuclear tests. The United States has imposed sanctions on both India and Pakistan that jeopardise billions of dollars in loans.
Pakistan's choice, page 16