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February 10, 1999


US Congress likely to enable Clinton to waive sanctions

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The US Congress may extend US President Bill Clinton's authority to waive economic sanctions against India and Pakistan.

This follows the considerable progress made in the eight-month-old non-proliferation dialogue with India and Pakistan.

Chairman of the house panel on Asia-Pacific, Dough Bereuter, indicated as much to newsmen in Washington on Tuesday. ''I think that all the elements and conditions for the waiver need to be re-examined in the light of what exists,'' he added.

In October last, Congress had armed the President with powers for one year to waive sanctions. A month later, he ordered a relaxation in sanctions in case of both India and Pakistan in November. The one-year authority, given last year, expires in October next and it appears that the Clinton administration would have no problem in securing its extension.

Bereuter said, ''I think this Congress is focussed on the issue. There will be a majority on both sides who will be sympathetic and willing to ease the sanctions. How far the lawmakers would go, I am not sure. This remains to be seen.''

The Republican Congressman said the possibility of lifting all the sanctions was ''certainly'' there, but hastened to add, ''I think, we have to look more carefully weather or not we can have total lifting (of the sanctions) or just stepping back in a realistic fashion on some of the sanctions that are there.''

He said the kind of talks the US had been having with India and Pakistan and the assurances that the two countries had furnished were ''very important in helping us reach a decision -- one that probably could be very complementary to India) and the US.

Asked about the outcome of the latest eigth round of talks between the US and India held in New Delhi and Islamabad, recently, he said, ''I don't know the details. What I heard is very positive.''

''I also like the fact that the government of India seems to be backing away from some of the things that we interpreted as anti-foreign investment and anti-business,'' Bereuter remarked.

The US had slapped sanctions on India and Pakistan in protest against their nuclear tests in May last in pursuance of its non-proliferation law, known as the Glenn Amendment.

Meanwhile, the administration has linked the demand for lifting or easing of the sanctions, as the case may be, directly to the progress in the ongoing non-proliferation dialogue.

The United States' main expectation from the two countries has been that they should sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty immediately and without any condition.

Bereuter appreciated India's security concerns arising out of China's nuclear capability and said he considered India a ''potential strategic partner'' of the US.

He said that US and other nuclear powers had to admit the reality that India had nuclear weapons capability. It pushed Pakistan to get support from China to develop nuclear and missile capability as India had.

He, however, said: ''We need to make sure that these weapons are not used by them against each other or against other countries.

In a related development, state department spokesman James Rubin said he was sure the subject of India and Pakistan will come up in Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's discussions with the Chinese government during her visit to Beijing early March.

He said some Chinese officials, who were in Washington recently, had received a briefing from Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott who had been to New Delhi and Islamabad recently.

He briefed them about ''our efforts to work on the India-Pakistan problem. But I wouldn't be able to give you publicly any unofficial results of any such diplomatic contact.''

Rubin was replying to questions after announcing the visit of Albright to China.

Secretary Albright will travel to China, Thailand and Indonesia, departing from Washington on Feberuary 28. ''The purpose of the secretary's trip is to affirm continued US strategic commitments to Asia and take up specific regional and bilateral concerns, the Asian financial crisis and progress towards free, fair and credible elections in Indonesia,'' he added.

He said secretary Albright would meet senior officials in Beijing on March 1 and 2, and ''discuss our expanding strategic dialogue with China and to facilitate progress on a range of bilateral issues. Obviously, she will be discussing issues related to the anticipated visit of Chinese premier Zhu Rongji to the United States this spring.''


The Pokhran nuclears tests, the aftermath and the sanctions

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