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June 20, 2001
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Sanctions against India ineffectual, says Biden

Aziz Haniffa
India Abroad Correspondent in Washington

Senator Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat and the new chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that the sanctions against India and Pakistan after their nuclear tests in May 1998 are 'ineffective'. He has urged the US to find new ways to promote nonproliferation in South Asia.

In a speech to the 2001 Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in Washington, Biden, who took over as head of the Senate panel from the cantankerous and curmudgeon Senator Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, said that the US must remain engaged in 'the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the subcontinent' because another war there could involve weapons of mass destruction. He, however, did not mention the Kashmir dispute by name.

"We must encourage India, Pakistan and the countries that support them to search for new approaches to security in the region," he said.

"We must also find a way to promote non-proliferation in South Asia without relying upon ineffective sanctions," he added.

He said that one way to do so may be to offer 'inducements'.

"Are there positive inducements that would make a difference for South Korea, Iran, India and Pakistan? There may be," Biden said.

"It might help, of course," he added, "if we show leadership in the field of arms control, which is so closely tied to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty."

Biden, who is considered a non-proliferation hawk, argued that 'there is no excuse for our failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty'.

He acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns regarding 'stockpile stewardship' and verification capabilities. "But we must address those concerns and then ratify the treaty."

"Were we to do that," Biden predicted, "I have no doubt that we could then convince India and Pakistan to do the same."

Biden, a fierce critic of President George W Bush's proposed national missile defense system, argued that there is "no excuse for choosing a missile defense that leads China to vastly increase its nuclear forces, with a ripple effect on India and Pakistan."

He said that while America's desire for a missile defense is 'understandable', that did not 'make it prudent to deploy a mediocre defense or to needlessly abrogate the anti-ballistic missile treaty'.

According to Biden: "It may be possible to craft a defense -- and an amended ABM Treaty -- so as not to threaten Russia or China's nuclear deterrent capabilities."

Biden however did not advocate a total abandonment of sanctions, saying that 'other countries also have a role to play in the imposition and enforcement of international sanctions'.

"The history of unilateral sanctions is hardly encouraging. But when the world stands firm, sanctions can succeed," he affirmed.

He then echoed what US business has been complaining about following the imposition of sanctions on India: "The trouble is that it hurts a country to impose sanctions. We get back to that first lesson: proliferation is an uncomfortable issue. It is uncomfortable for other countries, just as it is for the United States."

"It is an irritant in our relations with countries and it almost always pulls us away from closer relations, be they with Russia, China, India, or Pakistan."

But "precisely because proliferation is an uncomfortable issue, we must institutionalise it," he said. "That is the only way to ensure this issue a seat at the table when foreign policy decisions are made."


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