Alka Acharya, Director and Senior Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies.
Almost exactly eighteen years ago, in June 1998, after a summit meeting between the Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton of the US, a joint statement was issued in Beijing. It referred to the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in the preceding months and “the resulting increase in tension” as being “a source of deep and lasting concern to both of us”, which they jointly condemned. The statement went on to say that both the PRC and the US “agreed to continue to work closely together, within the P-5, the Security Council and with others….to prevent an accelerating nuclear and missile arms race in South Asia.” India had strongly dismissed this attempt by both to meddle in its affairs. Of course Vajpayee’s famously “leaked” letter to Clinton, had clearly placed the responsibility for India’s nuclear explosions at China’s door – both China’s advanced nuclear capabilities as also its support to Pakistan. India’s dance with the nuclear giants had begun, bringing the three countries into an intricate power-balancing act, with the shadow of the Sino-Pakistan nexus in the background.