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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Slams India for Nuclear Tests

Russia joined the world Tuesday in condemning its longtime ally India for conducting three underground nuclear weapons tests. President Boris Yeltsin said India "let us down."

The tests, conducted Monday, drew sharp criticism around the globe. U.S. President Bill Clinton recalled the American ambassador from New Delhi and promised to impose economic sanctions against India as required by U.S. laws designed to combat nuclear proliferation.

China said the tests created new instability in South Asia, while Pakistan, India's rival, vowed to conduct its own nuclear test.

Yeltsin, in a speech delivered at the Russian Foreign Ministry, added his voice to the chorus of critics.

"India has let us down with its explosion," Yeltsin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. But, he added, "I think that by working in a diplomatic way, and by visits, we must secure a turnaround."

Speaking later during a question-and-answer session on the Internet, he said Moscow had been unaware of India's intention to carry out tests.

"India is a friendly country. We have good relations with it and it was a surprise to us that they conducted a nuclear test," he said. "During my visit to India scheduled for this year, I'll do my best to resolve the problem."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the tests "pushed the world toward the proliferation of nuclear weapons and create additional difficulties on the path of further nuclear weapons cuts."

Russian criticism of India is extremely rare. Moscow has had close ties with India for decades, and has been one of the country's leading arms suppliers. The two sides have been talking about jointly building a civilian nuclear power plant in India.

In Washington, Clinton called on India to announce that it would conduct no further tests and would sign the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. "I also urge India's neighbors not to follow suit, not to follow down the path of a dangerous arms race," he said.

Defying world condemnation, Indians swelled with national pride after learning that their government conducted the underground nuclear tests in the Thar desert, 55 kilometers southwest of New Delhi, the capital.

In Pokaran, near the site of the nuclear tests, townsfolk celebrated with gusto Tuesday after being surprised and frightened when the tests rocked the ground Monday. Hundreds of villagers had poured out of their houses, fearing an earthquake. In New Delhi, Indians set off firecrackers in the streets.Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub blamed the Indian government for igniting nationalist passions and fueling the military rivalry between the two neighbors.

"We in Pakistan will maintain a balance with India in all fields," he declared in Islamabad. "We are in a headlong arms race on the subcontinent."

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear program, said Islamabad was ready to explode a device of its own whenever the government decides.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the Asian subcontinent gained independence in 1947.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said China was

"seriously concerned" about the tests done by its neighbor. The two countries fought a brief war in 1992 over a border dispute.

China set off its last nuclear test blast July 29, 1996, and declared a moratorium on testing.

Elsewhere, news of the nuclear tests provoked sharp reaction:

-Japanese officials called for a suspension of foreign economic aid. Since 1992, Japan has given $1 billion annually in aid to India, mostly in loans.

-Australia and New Zealand recalled their ambassadors from New Delhi.

-Itcho Ito, the mayor of Nagasaki, where 70,000 people died in the U.S. atomic bombing in 1945, flew to Tokyo to lodge a protest at the Indian Embassy.

Greenpeace International, an environmental group, said India has "made a costly mistake if it believes that domestic support of these tests are worth the increase in insecurity in the region and globally."

Brajesh Mishra, an aide to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said the tests proved India is capable of building a nuclear weapon. But it was not clear whether the next step would be producing a bomb.

The federal Cabinet met in New Delhi on Tuesday and reaffirmed that the government wants to discuss global disarmament.

"India remains committed to a speedy process of nuclear disarmament leading to total and global elimination of nuclear weapons," said a resolution adopted by the Cabinet.

"I don't mind India signing the (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), provided the United States and other powers don't impose sanctions and create problems," said K. Subrahmanyam, a veteran defense analyst.

However, Clinton's statement could mean the withholding of funds for aid projects now worth about $55 million annually, and make it difficult for private U.S. companies to win government guarantees and insurance for projects in India.

India has refused to sign international treaties banning the testing or further production of nuclear weapons, saying the treaties only froze the advantage held by the world's declared nuclear powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.