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June 17, 1998


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Albright welcomes Indo-Pak talks; Clinton's China policy under fire in Senate

C K Arora in Washington

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright welcomed the willingness on the part of India and Pakistan to resume their dialogue, and urged both countries to resolve their differences peacefully and ''avoid stumbling further into an arms race they cannot afford and might not survive.''

Testifying before a Senate committee, she said ''Our challenge is to minimise the adverse consequences to international security and peace arising out of nuclear tests by India and Pakistan.

''During the past few days,'' she pointed out, ''we have seen a willingness on the part of both New Delhi and Islamabad to try to bring tensions under control, resume dialogue and respond to international concerns.

"We welcome this and urge both countries to resolve their differences peacefully and avoid stumbling further into and an arms race they cannot afford and might not survive.

''More broadly, we believe there are a number of steps we can take to renew the strength of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and this is very much in our security interests to do so,'' Albright added.

In reply to a question, she made it clear that the US had imposed sanctions on both countries after the tests, that those sanctions did not aim at causing hardships to the people or destablising those countries.

Albright, as part of her reply, pointed out that several other countries had backed the US nuclear-related sanctions against India and Pakistan.

She urged the Senate to take steps to endorse the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. ''It is important to get the CTBT monitoring and detection system up and running, to reinforce the principle that nuclear testing was not acceptable, and to dissuade other countries following the example of India and Pakistan," she told the Senate.

Elsewhere, Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone has objected to US President Bill Clinton's suggestion that China should have a major role as mediator in Kashmir and other India-Pakistan problems.

"It makes no sense, given Beijing's role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear programme,'' Pallone argued.

In a statement on the floor of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, Pallone also voiced his concern over efforts to link the Kashmir dispute to the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan -- ''a linkage which makes no sense, in my opinion.''

In his statement, Pallone took note of the talk of sponsoring a resolution in the US Senate that would call for the United Nations mediation on Kashmir through a Security Council resolution. The proposed resolution would also ask US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson to hold talks with both Pakistani and Indian diplomats on the issue.

Pallone argued that the nuclear tests were not a product of Kashmir. ''Instead, I would argue that the growing military and nuclear relationship between Pakistan and China pushed India to conduct such a test,'' he said.

The congressman pointed out that just one week after Pakistan had conducted its nuclear tests, US intelligence agencies reported a Chinese ship carrying weapons material and electronics destined for Pakistan. This ship was carrying arms material that included special metals and electronics for the production of Chinese-designed anti-tank missiles made by Pakistan's A Q Khan Research Laboratories, he added.

Pallone, co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, told House Speaker Newt Gingrich that China's ballistic missile relationship with Pakistan had prompted more international concern than China's missile trade with any other country.

In this context, he recalled the statement of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to the effect that ''the Chinese provided a tremendous variety of assistance to both Iran and Pakistan's ballistic missile programmes.''

The Chinese could have had a role in the development of the nuclear-capable Ghauri missile which Islamabad tested in April, Pallone alleged.

He argued that the US should continue its bilateral dialogue with India and encourage it to move away from nuclear proliferation. ''We are in the best position to work with the Indian government to achieve this goal,'' he said, opposing Clinton's suggestion that China must play an important role in resolving tensions between India and Pakistan.

He heatedly argued against third party mediation in Kashmir, which he felt would be counter-productive.

''Interference by the United Nations, the United States or any country would not help," Pallone said, in a strong statement. "In fact, the two countries agreed to bilateral resolution of Kashmir, among other issues, through the Simla Accord that they signed in 1972.''

Pallone's stinging statement came on a day when, on the floor of the Senate, Clinton's China policy came under virulent attack from all corners. Senator Connie Mack was one of those who argued that Clinton's pro-China policy was responsible for India's nuclear tests.

''The message sent by Clinton's foreign policy team has encouraged India to conclude that the most effective way to ensure its interests are protected from an increasingly powerful Asian superpower, and to garner greater diplomatic and commercial attention from the West, is to remind the world of its nuclear deterrent capability,'' Mack said.

''I deeply regret the circumstances regarding India's decision to detonate nuclear devices," Mack told the Senate. "But the increased instability in the region has been caused by China's proliferation policy, a US foreign policy which favours China over India, and the licensing of technologies by the US which enhances China's military capabilities.''

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