April 04, 2020
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On The Side Of Caution

On The Side Of Caution

THE rest of the world might be up in arms at India’s nuclear tests, but other than Pakistan and China, the reactions from its immediate neighbours have been rather cautious not to annoy India. While Bangladesh and Sri Lanka mouthed the usual "countries with nuclear capabilities must show restraint" line, Nepal, keenly aware that if relations between China and India deteriorate it would be affected first, tried its best not to antagonise either.

Analysts in Nepal, a signatory to both the NPT and the CTBT, say whether it likes it or not, the Himalayan kingdom will once again become a buffer state between China and India, much like in the ’60s. But Kathmandu fervently hopes that the Pokhran explosions won’t spark off an arms race in the region.

 Meanwhile, Colombo was quiet for two full days as the Foreign Ministry struggled to formulate a position which would not irk New Delhi. "Sri Lanka notes with deep concern the missile and nuclear testing which have occurred recently in the South Asian region. Sri Lanka believes that the entire international community should continue its efforts to achieve global nuclear disarmament leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons without which peace and international security will continue to be in constant jeopardy," the statement said.

 But foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar broke ranks with the global community and backed India’s nuclear tests and condemned the imposition of sanctions against India. But he also indicated that Colombo would respond in a similar vein if Pakistan exploded a N-bomb. Colombo immediately came under pressure to change its stand. Islamabad and Beijing had helped Sri Lanka both materially and diplomatically during the height of the Indian-led diplomatic campaign against Colombo during the 1980s.

In Bangladesh, the official reaction was a bland statement from the Foreign Ministry, urging countries with nuclear capabilities in the region to show restraint.According to foreign policy experts, the perfunctory official reaction is understandable as Bangladesh, surrounded by India on three sides, can hardly say or do anything that could be interpreted as hostile to Delhi. Dependent on supplies of essential commodities from India, Bangladesh can be brought to its knees if New Delhi simply decides to halt the Ganges water flow, experts say.

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