Bucking international criticism, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee suggested Tuesday that the five traditional nuclear weapons powers get rid of their own arsenals rather than preach to India.
"Let us see if they heed our call," Vajpayee told 300 supporters who came to his house in New Delhi to congratulate him for India's five underground nuclear tests last month.Those underground tests prompted neighboring Pakistan to retaliate with six announced nuclear tests of its own, igniting a nuclear arms race on the volatile subcontinent.
In Geneva, 46 countries jointly demanded in a statement Tuesday that India and Pakistan immediately cease testing nuclear arms and join the global move to eliminate the weapons.
"The testing of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan is totally irreconciliable with the claims by both countries that they are committed to nuclear disarmament," said the statement.
Among the countries that backed the statement before an emergency meeting of the 61-nation Conference on Disarmament were the declared nuclear powers of United States, Britain, China, France and Russia. Also supporting the ban on further testing were Japan, South Korea, South Africa and European and Latin American nations, but conspicuously missing were Middle Eastern countries.
The statement said India's and Pakistan's explosions in May were "provocative and dangerous acts."
In his speech Tuesday, Vajpayee noted that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said there is need to rethink disarmament issues.
"I want to add that the time has come not just to think but to act as well," Vajpayee said to applause. "There have been endless meetings, discussions and seminars on disarmament, but no steps have been taken to get rid of nuclear weapons."
Vajpayee reiterated that he had asked India's scientists to test only as many devices as needed to safeguard India's security and then ordered a moratorium on further tests.
The United States, Australia, Japan and other countries have cut off loans and all but humanitarian aid to punish India and Pakistan.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, India's top Finance Ministry official, said Tuesday that state-owned Indian corporations can still borrow from U.S. banks. Only direct investment to the government in the form of treasury bills and government bonds is affected, he said.