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In Vajpayee's first year, onions to mushroom clouds

*Nuclear talks. After the test explosions of May 8, the international community levied sanctions on India and Pakistan. President Bill Clinton sent Strobe Talbott to negotiate. A basic set of agreements has emerged: India and Pakistan are likely to sign the the Conventional Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) when it comes up for adoption next August. The two sides will limit fissile-material production, agree to export controls, limit missle testing. A major loophole is India's insistence on "minimum deterrence," language that will enable it to weaponize.

While arguably done for political reasons, the tests did not carry weight in the local ballot box. In state elections in November, the main issue was not the mushroom cloud, but the price of onions.

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*The Lahore Declaration. Last month's summit stresses new people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, first step toward more normal relations between India and Pakistan. Agreed to disagree over Kashmir dispute and advance warning on nuclear tests.

*Coalition politics. A new era in India: No one party or its single-minded agenda can any longer hold the political ground. BJP represents the first party not to emerge from the freedom struggle of 1947.

*Anti-Christian campaign. Where the Hindu agenda has most seriously played out at home. In December and January, hard-line RSS officials issue escalating statements on conspiracy of "West-sponsored" missionary activity. Rhetoric aimed at Sonia Gandhi, a Roman Catholic. Australian missionary and sons burned while sleeping. Hidden forces seeking to put a "Bible in every Indian home," RSS claims. Christians, not Muslims, are "enemy No. 1" for the RSS. In Gujurat, a plan to take a police census of Christians and Muslims is withdrawn. Also withdrawn, a federal proposal, made by Vajpayee to ameliorate feelings after attacks, to call 2000 the "Year of the Christ." Instead, it will call it the "Year of the Culture of Peace."

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