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June 24, 1999


The Rediff Business Special/Sam Brownback

'US must stop economic blackmail, suspend sanctions, aid India'

Senator Sam Brownback I'm grateful for the opportunity to make a few points about India and the US policy towards India. I believe we must change US policy towards India.

A year ago, both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests which, according to the US law, mandated the imposition of total sanctions on both countries.

Last year, I introduced a measure, which the Congress passed, providing the Administration with a one year presidential waiver for the economic sanctions. This waiver authority will expire in October 1999 and if we are to have normal relations with India, we must revisit the issue of economic sanctions.

Last week, Senator Roberts and I sponsored a measure in the Department of Defence Appropriations Bill which, if it becomes law, would help change our relationship with India -- for the better.

Let me be direct: I believe that the United States must encourage a broad, stable and improved relationship between our two nations. Unfortunately, the Administration's India policy is too narrowly focussed on one issue, getting India's signature on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Our relationship with India must not be held hostage to any single issue.

The US has real and legitimate political, economic and security interests with India and we need to understand and engage on all levels as soon as possible.

Seizing the opportunity that we have to build greater ties should be one of our main foreign policy goals. We are, after all, the two most populous democratic nations in the world. Our relationship should be based on shared values and institutions, economic collaboration, including enhanced trade and investment, and the goal of regional stability across Asia; not on economic blackmail to sign on to a treaty the United States Senate may not even ratify.

Email this report to a friend Don't misunderstand me, security concerns are a vital issue. I simply do not believe they should be the only issue on which we deal with a country like India. This is the largest democracy in the world. The US should not be blackmailing other democracies and hurting their economies!

It is important to try to get both India and Pakistan to get their nuclear programmes in line with international norms. It should not be the only point on which we can deal with them.

If anything, this is a time when we should be working hard to develop even closer ties: India is looking to us to be partners. India's recent decision to go nuclear has its roots in the collapse of the Soviet Union, the growth of Chinese military power, and in the even more recent transfer of nuclear technology to India's neighbours on all sides. And it is clear that India has reason to consider China to be a most serious security threat.

We ourselves are in the middle of a serious crisis in our relationship with China, yet at each turn, knowing this, the Administration has been rewarding China -- a country that has openly and continually challenged US interests and values -- while first ignoring, and now punishing India.

The inequity in this situation is both striking and counter-intuitive. Why reward the country which is aggressively working against everything the US stands for, and at the same time punish and blackmail a country with which the US shares basic values and interests?

China's transfer of technology to other countries, including Iran, although illegal under the Missile Technology Control Regime and other agreements, has attracted no penalties. In fact, the Administration has turned a blind eye to Chinese violations of the nuclear non proliferation treaty, and we have seen that the Administration worked actively to ease the difficulty of sharing sensitive technology with the Chinese. Yet, the US has stuck to the letter of the law in denying India critical the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund loans and access to critical safety-related equipment and spare parts for its aging, civilian power plants.

We also continue systematically to overlook China's miserable human rights record. The state department, in its 1999 Human Rights Report, stated that China has continued to commit widespread and well documented human rights abuses. India has tried to address the needs of numerous ethnic, religious, and linguistic communities. And in India we see a vibrant democratic process in action. India has a parliament, courts of law, political parties and a free press and elections for which hundreds of voters turn out, as a result of which governments fall and are formed. Yet India is the one to be sanctioned!

And now we find that China has been systematically purloining our secrets to such an extent that it could pose a serious threat to the United States. And we feel threatened! Imagine if we were neighbours of China's with a history of conflicts with China. That is the situation India is in.

What is going on in China is not our only interest in India: America is India's largest trading partner. India is ethnically and religiously diverse as no other state: it boasts in addition to the large Hindu and Muslim populations, an important ancient Christian civilization that dates from St Thomas, as well as one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.

India straddles two oceans, and as such will be a pivotal player in world politics. It is hard to imagine how the US can engage effectively in Asia without a stronger and more diverse relationship with India.

That is the rationale behind the amendment Senator Roberts and I introduced recently. Suspending economic sanctions will allow the US to continue to engage with India on many fronts out of the shadow of the CTBT. At the same time, we have provided the Administration with the waiver authority on dual use items which do not contribute directly to weapons of mass destruction programmes; waiver for foreign military financing, waiver for foreign military sales.

And we have included language indicating that the Entities List needs refinement. This should give the Administration expanded tools to use in negotiations with India and to broaden the relationship.

US economic sanctions on India make no sense. Our interests must address what is real. Instead of chastising India, the US should be engaging India on a broad range of issues.

I look forward to working with you (the Indo-US Business Council) on this and hope you will be able to provide your support to see that this amendment becomes law.

Senator Sam Brownback is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He spoke at a meeting organised by the Indo-US Business Council in Washington on June 16.


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