Meanwhile, India swears in new PM

Click to follow
The Independent Online

PAKISTAN rained on India's parade yesterday. Atal Behari Vajpayee's swearing in as Prime Minister of India's most stable-looking government in years was completely overshadowed by the news from Islamabad. The new Indian government's first act, before the ceremony, was to order the armed forces to high alert to counter possible incidents on the long border shared by the two perennially warring states.

PAKISTAN rained on India's parade yesterday. Atal Behari Vajpayee's swearing in as Prime Minister of India's most stable-looking government in years was completely overshadowed by the news from Islamabad. The new Indian government's first act, before the ceremony, was to order the armed forces to high alert to counter possible incidents on the long border shared by the two perennially warring states.

Early comment reflected official confusion and fear. "We are deeply concerned over developments in Pakistan and are closely monitoring the situation," national security adviser Brajesh Mishra said late on Tuesday. Jaswant Singh, foreign minister in the outgoing government and a minister in the new one, said India was "appalled and concerned" by developments in Pakistan.

But yesterday the chiefs of India's armed forces downplayed their anxieties. "We are on the watch," said Air Chief Marshall A Y Tpnis, chief of the air staff. "There is nothing to worry about."

A retired senior officer denied that Pakistan's military takeover made nuclear war more likely. "There is no reason to worry about nuclear control going to the army," said Satish Nambiar, former director-general of military operations. "The army was in total control of the nuclear programme even when there was a civilian government. Just because a coup has taken place does not mean there is any cause for concern on the nuclear front."

Former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral expressed his sadness about the takeover, and said he hoped the period of military rule would be brief. "We have a great deal of friendship with Pakistan, and things were moving in a positive direction.There is no option but to live as friends and we want to sustain that atmosphere."

Echoing this, Mr Vajpayee said: "India remains committed to developing friendly and cooperative ties with Pakistan based on mutual trust and confidence."

Comments