Kashmir Nuclear Flash Point: New Zealand Premier
10 October 2004
The Hindustan Times
Wellington: In a statement that may court controversy ahead of her first ever visit to India, Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark has described 'Kashmir as a nuclear flash point'. In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times in her Wellington office Clark said that the dispute forced India and Pakistan to go nuclear and can now trigger a nuclear war. 'There has been many a time during my tenure that there has been a danger of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan but the the resolution of the nuclear issue lies in the resolution of the Kashmir issue, I think Kashmir is the flashpoint,' she said. However when asked that India had rejected this theory and considered Kashmir as an internal issue and if can really lead to a nuclear conflict she replied, 'Of course it a conflict driving point, and that has put pressures on India and Pakistan to go nuclear,' she said. However, she also maintained that she is a friend of India and her visit to India is meant to send a signal that Wellington wanted to engage India but maintained that she will not budge from her principled stand on the nuclear issue. 'We have a principled stand on the nuclear issue and the public opinion in New Zealand supports that. We will tell India to sign the CTBT. India will always find New Zealand as the dominant voice for nuclear disarmament', Clark said. However she said that India and Pakistan are showing signs of progress, which is a good step. Clark is known for her tough views and earlier this year had refused to send troops to Iraq despite mounting US pressure, this was followed by her decision to deport two Israelis caught in New Zealand who were suspected to be spying for Mossad. However, her statement on the eve of her visit is likely to evoke strong reaction especially since India is quite sensitive about the Jammu and Kashmir issue, and has always rejected any linkages to the nuclear issue with the vexed Kashmir issue. In fact, recently it even issued a demarche to the EU over a report by the European Parliament that suggested a special rapporteur on the Kashmir issue. The relationship between India and New Zealand had nose-dived following the 1998 Indian nuclear tests. New Zealand had recalled their Ambassador to India after the tests, the Kiwis even gave a dressing down to the Indian Envoy in Wellington who had not even presented his credentials, so Clark's visit was meant to build the bridges between the two sides and erase the bitterness of 1998.