Clinton unlikely to ease sanctions
on India, Pakistan soon
Bill Clinton, president of the United States, is unlikely to use any time soon his new authority to waive the economic sanctions slapped by his administration on India and Pakistan in protest against their nuclear tests in May.
An indication to this effect was given by officials who maintained that the power to lift or relax sanctions is linked to the progress in the non-proliferation talks the administration has been having with the two countries for the last four months.
Apparently, that kind of progress has not yet been recorded.
This was also the rationale held out by the US administration when it put off indefinitely President Clinton's visit to the region scheduled for next month.
Clinton would have been the first US president to visit New Delhi in two decades. Jimmy Carter was the last one.
Last night, Clinton signed into law the provision that gave him powers to suspend most of the economic and trade sanctions against India and Pakistan, leaving untouched only the ban on the export of arms to the two countries.
But the American talks with India and Pakistan, which began in June, will continue, according to officials. The next round with India, the seventh in the series, will take place next month, most probably in New Delhi.
As before, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will represent the US. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jaswant Singh will represent India in his capacity as special envoy of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
According to reports, the Clinton administration has assured Congress that it will exercise the authority to waive sanctions only in case of "substantial" progress on issues like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, production and deployment of nuclear weapons and missiles, and the underlying causes of tension between India and Pakistan.
According to the reports, Pakistan may get some benefit under the new provision. There is a general feeling in Washington that the sanctions have hit Pakistan more than India because of its greater reliance on foreign aid and its foreign exchange crisis.
Meanwhile, Clinton has invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief to Washington for discussions in early December. Indications are that he may offer some kind of economic assistance to Pakistan.
The two leaders had met last month in New York where they had gone to attend the United Nations General Assembly session.
There is also concern in Congress about the possible adverse impact of the sanctions on US trade with India. The US has already restored wheat credit to Pakistan after American farmers complained that the sanctions came in the way of the export of wheat to Pakistan.
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