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US caution against nuclear rhetoric

WASHINGTON: The US has “publicly and directly” asked Pakistan not to talk about using nuclear weapons in a conflict with India and urged both states to keep their communication lines open. The message followed a leaked audio of Hillary Clinton in which she warns that a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan was “one of the most dangerous developments imaginable”.

The contents of the audio echoed at a US State Department news briefing on Friday afternoon where Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner also spoke about “some of the rhetoric … coming out of Pakistan about the possibility of using nukes or nuclear weapons”.

The US official reminded Pakistan that nuclear-capable states do not indulge in such talks. “I would just say nuclear-capable states have a very clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities.”

The New York Times reported on Friday that Clinton also underlined her concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme in that audio. “Pakistan is running full speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India. But we live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more
threatening scenario.”

Toner, however, refused to comment on her insinuation, saying instead that he would only answer questions about the rhetoric from the Pakistani government on the possibility of using nuclear weapons.

Another journalist remin­ded the US official that for more than a week now, the State Department has been regularly appealing for restraint between India and Pakistan and asked if such appeals were also having an impact on those two countries. ‘I don’t have a real readout. I think we’re just still following the situation on the ground very closely,” he said, indicating that Washington had not yet received any reassurance from either India or Pakistan.

“We’re continuing to follow the situation on the ground very closely. From our perspective, we urge restraint by both sides,” he said when asked if the US had received any assurance from either India or Pakistan on what future action they might take on the LoC. “We believe that continued communication between them is important to reduce tensions. We certainly don’t want to see any kind of escalation,” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2016

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