Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Saturday defended his country's nuclear tests and said he was ready for talks to mend strained relations with Pakistan and China.

In an Independence Day address to the nation, he said he had not given up hope of resuming dialogue with Pakistan after the arch-foes' failure to agree on how to proceed last month."I have not given up hope. I am ready to talk to Pakistan at any place, any level and on any subject," Vajpayee said in his speech from the soaring ramparts of Delhi's 17th-century Red Fort.

In parliament, Indian President Kocheril Raman Narayanan threw his weight behind overtures toward Pakistan and said it had become necessary to resolve differences peacefully after the May nuclear tests by the two neighbors.

"I think now that both countries have these weapons, it would drive home to both the inescapable need to settle the differences between them peacefully and through negotiations," he said in an address to the nation from parliament's historic central hall where India first declared itself free, 51 years ago.