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Pakistan Foreign Ministry News

19 August 1999

Vajpayee says decision on signing of CTBT after elections.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee said Hindu nationalist-led alliance would work towards finding some "middle ground" with Islamabad. "Efforts will be directed towards that end," he added. He was asked if talks were possible given New Delhi has insisted Pakistan give up supporting terrorism in Kashmir and Islamabad has accused New Delhi of brutality in occupied Kashmir.

Declined to give a pre-poll commitment on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). "After elections, a final decision will be taken in this regard," Vajpayee said. Vajpayee had originally indicated he would sign the CTBT before September, but that was before the coalition government, led by his Hindu nationalist BJP party, collapsed in April, ncessitating mid-term elections.

Earlier, Indian Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist-led alliance unveiled an election manifesto on Monday that vowed to pump up the country's military muscle. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which opinion polls suggest will win a majority in the eptember-October election, pledged to "correct the imbalance and budgetary neglect defence needs" by previous governments.

While providing no specific figures, the NDA said it would ensure the "adequacy of budgetary allocations" for the military. "In today's unipolar world, it is of paramount importance that India constantly maintains and strengthens the state of preparedness, morale and combat effectiveness of the armed forces," the manifesto said.

Military spending has become a priority campaign issue following the 10-week conflict in Kashmir. The NDA said it would also take advice from the National Security Council on the establishment of "a credible nuclear deterrent," in the light of India and Pakistan's nuclear tests in May last year. "These are the minimum requirements in this recently inaugurated era of global inequality and increased vulnerability."

The opposition Congress party, meanwhile, lashed out at NDA's pledge to keep out foreigners from holding India's highest office saying premier Vajpayee was afraid of their Italian-born leader. "Naturally they are afraid of Sonia Gandhi. They will raise the issue inthe elections and people will give them a befitting reply," a Congress spokesman told reporters.

The manifesto also stressed the importance of foreign investment, setting an inflow target f $10 billion a year in "core areas." It also promised political stability to an electorate that as "on the verge of losing faith in our democratic system." The layout of the manifesto ocument reflected the alliance's policy of pushing Vajpayee as the face and voice of the roup's policies and ideology.