Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his six-day visit to the UK and Finland on Monday against the backdrop of North Korea's nuclear test that India said reflected the "dangers of clandestine proliferation".
The reference to "clandestine proliferation" by Navtej Sarna, spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry, was aimed as much at North Korea as the Pakistani establishment. Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan had been accused of clandestinely sharing nuclear technology with North Korea.
India's understanding is that the association between North Korea and Pakistan continued even after the A.Q. Khan episode came out in the open.
"Our more immediate concern relates to this association with Pakistan," said a senior official who was with the prime minister. He added that the implications of the nuclear test would figure high on the agenda of Singh and British Prime Minister Tony Blair when they meet on Tuesday morning.
India's comments expressing "deep concern" at the nuclear tests came minutes before Singh was to leave for the two-nation visit that is to focus on trade, terrorism and India's civil nuclear cooperation. Indian officials said the developments in Pyongyang would not change the agenda significantly; only the context.
The nuclear test, they said, would only emphasise the points on terror vis-à-vis Pakistan that India was to make.
Officials said as reports of the test came in, India started getting in touch with "interested" countries. Indian officials accompanying Singh said they were still trying to collect and share as much information on the Korean move as well as share perceptions on the fallout of the test. One could be a slowdown in the US Congress on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, reacting to the test, in Delhi, however, said it would have no bearing on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal as the country had an impeccable non-proliferation record. A senior official said was "ridiculous" to compare India's Pokharan II with the Pyongyang test. The issue is also bound to come up at the NSG meeting in Vienna on Tuesday, and is likely to make India's engagement with them, on the issue of an India-specific waiver for civil nuclear commerce, more difficult.
The fear is that those countries that have reservations may be unwilling to soften their position at a time when North Korea has gone ahead with the test.
"But as long as the two cases are different, we do not see any problem," said an official. In conducting the tests, India had not violated any commitments because it made none. "We were transparent… and the programme is transparent and legitimate". In its formal reaction to the nuclear tests, India said it was "unfortunate" the test was conducted "in violation of its international commitments, jeopardising peace, stability and security on the Korean peninsula and in the region.