Mission Improbable in New Delhi

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Washington has sent Strobe Talbott to Asia with a tall order: persuade India and Pakistan not only to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but to refrain from "weaponizing" their nuclear weapons and to accept mediation in their dispute over Kashmir. "Talbott's mission is probably a long shot at this point," says TIME correspondent Douglas Waller. "It's unlikely that Pakistan and India will be prepared to give up their nuclear programs -- the major pressure to back down remains U.S. sanctions, but those sanctions are being undercut by European countries."

Talbott held "constructive" talks on Monday with his Indian counterpart, Jaswant Singh, before flying off to Pakistan, where he'll meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The White House has asked Congress to give President Clinton the authority to apply a carrot-and-stick approach over sanctions. But even though sanctions are hurting -- particularly in Pakistan, where they've created a balance-of-payments crisis -- neither country looks likely to retreat from its nuclear course. Even then, the U.S. will keep on talking. After all, the risks outweigh anything gained from cold-shouldering states with nuclear capability.