Pakistan on Thursday picked up the cry about a suspected Indian plan to conduct another nuclear test, and said it hoped that a moratorium on nuclear testing in the region since 1998 would continue to be observed.

“We are obviously disturbed by the reports that India might be considering to conduct an additional nuclear test,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit.

He was referring to reports that the recent claim by the former defence scientist, K. Santhanam, of the failure of the 1998 thermonuclear device test, was in fact a ruse by the Indian nuclear establishment to pave the way for conducting another nuclear test.

The spokesman said Pakistan had proposed a regional restraint regime, which included a regional nuclear test ban treaty.

“Those proposals are still on the table. Meanwhile, we hope that the unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing effective since 1998 in the region will continue to be observed,” Mr. Basit said.

Nuclear arsenal

Responding to remarks by the Indian Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, expressing concern over reports of Pakistan’s expanding nuclear arsenal, the spokesman said it was Islamabad’s policy to maintain a credible deterrence at the “minimum possible level.”

Pakistan was against an arms race in South Asia, which was why, he said, it had proposed the restraint regime, including a ban on further testing.

He also dismissed as “baseless” fears expressed by the U.S. of the continued proliferation risk posed by A.Q. Khan, the scientist revered by Pakistan as the “father” of its nuclear bomb but internationally disgraced for selling the country’s nuclear secrets abroad.

Dr. Khan is fighting a court battle to have security restrictions against him removed. After a Lahore High Court judge ordered the removal of the restrictions last week, a two-judge Bench of the same court slapped them back again on Wednesday following an appeal by the federal government. The next hearing on the appeal is posted for September 15.

“Our export controls are as comprehensive and effective as any NPT or nuclear weapons state and I can assure that the government of Pakistan is cognisant of its responsibilities in this regard,” the spokesman said.

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