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|May 13, 1998||
Clinton orders tough sanctions
US President Bill Clinton today ordered imposition of crippling economic sanctions on India with a plea to the international community to follow suit, in an apparent bid to punish New Delhi for its recent series of successful nuclear tests.
Clinton made the announcement at a press conference in Germany where he had gone on a state visit. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was also present there, joined him in attacking India for indulging in nuclear proliferation at a time when the world headed towards disarmament.
The sanctions include an end to US assistance to India, a prohibition on the export of certain defence and technology material, an end to US credit and credit guarantees to India, and US opposition to lending by international financial institutions to India, the officials said. While US assistance is to be halted, there is an exception for food and humanitarian aid.
Before making the announcement, Clinton had a telephone-talk with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief and urged him to desist from retaliating to India's action with a nuclear test of his own.
The president also asked China, without specifically naming it, not to be provoked into going in for nuclear testing.
According to media reports, Clinton took the decision after India had rejected the US suggestions that would have helped avoid sanctions. These suggestions included a commitment by India that it would not conduct any such test in future and sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Tready ''now and without condition.''
The sanctions are envisaged in the United States law, the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act, which Clinton signed in 1994. It had never been used before.
Under this law, the Clinton administration will cut off virtually all US aid to India, bar American banks from making loans to its government and restrict exports of computers and other equipment that might have military uses. It will also require the United States to oppose loans to India by the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.
Yesterday, before his departure for Germany, Clinton had said that he was ''deeply disturbed'' by India's tests and called on India to conduct no further tests and to sign ''now and without conditions'' the CTBT, which prohibits all experiments with nuclear explosions.
It was also complained that Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, in his letter to Clinton, did not address the proposals but simply offered an ''unrepentant justification for India's tests.''
The sanctions would affect American aid and trade with India which is about $ 7.7 billion in American exports and $ 7.3 billion in Indian imports.
The United States gave $ 143 million in direct aid last year, including developmental and food assistance and such aid would end in the future.
The Pentagon also announced that sanctions would halt the modest military sales and training programmes the United States had begun with India.
More significantly, India is the largest borrower from the World Bank, having borrowed $ 44 billion to date, including $ 1.5 billion this year. While the United States cannot unilaterally dictate how the World Bank lends money, it wields enormous influence that can be used to block consideration of India's programmes.
Meanwhile, the United States joined several other countries in recalling its ambassador to India, Richard Celeste.
White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, also suggested that India's tests might force Clinton to cancel his plans to visit India later this year.
While the punitive measures were imposed, Central Intelligence Agency officials questioned how the tests could have caught them so unaware.
US spy satellites trained on India's nuclear test site in recent weeks observed routine activities that proved to be elaborate efforts to conceal impending nuclear test explosions, American intelligence officials say.
CIA officials were examining whether its imagery specialists missed key indicators that might have provided the government warning of what India planned to do. Advance notice might have given the Clinton administration a chance to try to persuade India to call off the tests.
Before leaving for Europe yesterday, Clinton urged India and its neighbours to refrain from further testing, and he promised to invoke economic sanctions against India under the 1994 Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act.
The New York Times, in the meantime, quoted Democratic Senator John Glenn, who sponsored the US non-proliferation law, saying it was meant to impose punishment, swiftly and harshly. He said India's tests, in defiance of the international ban on testing, was an enormous setback to efforts to reduce nuclear weapons after the tense stand-off of the Cold War.
Glenn said he considered himself a friend of India, but ''this is just such a blatant slap in the face to the way the rest of the world is going.''
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