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Wednesday, September 30, 1998
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US Congress okays one-year
waiver of sanctions

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) — Negotiators from the US House of Representatives and the Senate voted to give President Bill Clinton flexibility in dealing with India and Pakistan by allowing a one-year waiver of US sanctions on the new nuclear powers.

The waiver, potentially the first step in a broad revision of the US policy on economic sanctions, was approved yesterday as part of an agriculture funding Bill. The negotiators rejected another proposal, approved in July by the Senate to exempt food and medicine from all unilateral US embargoes.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpaye with Henry Kissinger in New York on Monday-- PTI photo.Although negotiators wrapped up work on those provisions, leaders said the Bill would not go to a floor vote until they could resolve a dispute over the US approval of the so-called abortion pill attached to the Bill. Lawmakers were not expected to meet again before Thursday.

The White House had sought the authority to waive US economic sanctions on India and Pakistan for one year. Senator Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, said "we’re close, very close" to getting the nations to sign a non-proliferation pact and a missile control regime.

"This gives the administration the tools to accomplish this," he added.

However, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms and two other Senators are opposed to lifting of the US economic sanctions and restrictions on export of high-technology goods to India in return for New Delhi’s acceptance of several arms control measures, including the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT).

In a joint letter to President Clinton, they have expressed their concern at recent press reports indicating that the Administration was negotiating such a deal with India.

They drew attention to a wire service report saying that the Administration was in the closing stages of negotiating a deal under which the USA would make these concessions and in return India would agree to sign the CTBT, accept some unspecified restraints on fissile material production, "commit itself not to export any sensitive nuclear or missile technology and agree not to openly deploy nuclear weapons, although it could make and store these."

The Senators said "in our view, an offer to lift sanctions and technology transfer barriers on India in return for these arms control measures would be unwise."

They said "an Indian pledge not to 'openly deploy' nuclear weapons would be unverifiable and would place few constraints on its nuclear programme. Under such a deal, New Delhi would still be free to produce and stockpile nuclear weapons which could be rapidly deployed when tensions arose", they argued.

"We would also oppose lifting sanctions in order to convince India to sign the CTBT as the recent Indian nuclear tests demonstrated the CTBT is not adequately verifiable. According to the New York Times, the international monitoring system set up to verify compliance with the treaty only detected one of the five nuclear tests conducted by India."

Instead of trying to convince India to agree to a series of hollow arms control measures, they urged the President to focus US diplomatic efforts on addressing the underlying cause of tension in South Asia.

earlier in the day, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee told a breakfast meeting arranged in his honour by Dr Henry Kissinger that the general direction of the Indo-US strategic dialogue was "positive’’.

He gave this appraisal of the still inconclusive talks which his personal envoy, Mr Jaswant Singh, has been having with senior officials of the Clinton Administration. Mr Jaswant Singh, who was present at the meeting, also gave a broad assessment of the ongoing dialogue.

According to an Indian spokesman, Dr Kissinger, while welcoming the Prime Minister, noted that relations between India and the USA tended to fluctuate. It was necessary, he said, to get out of this pattern.

In context of the growing role of India in South Asia and the world, and the importance of close relations between the USA and India, Dr Kissinger said every effort must be made to overcome the kind of differences that had proved to be divisive in the past.

In response to questions on recent developments in the subcontinent in the nuclear field, Mr Vajpayee explained the Indian position, emphasising the points he had made at the General Assembly on a moratorium on nuclear tests and a no-first use offer of nuclear weapons.

He also apprised the participants at the breakfast meeting of his talks last week with Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. Mr Vajpayee said both countries had reached certain conclusions which, he said, had improved the climate for a future dialogue considerably.

On the role of sanctions, the Prime Minister expressed the view that sanctions were counter-productive. He noted that even in the USA there was rethinking in this regard. The Indian economy, he emphasised, was strong and resilient and although sanctions had an affect these did not adversely affect the economy.

Mr Maurice Greenberg, Chairman, American International Group, raising the issue of foreign investment in the insurance sector, said the Americans were waiting for the signal that would welcome investors in this area.

The Prime Minister explained that insurance used to be confined to public sector, but private companies were now allowed in this field. A national debate was on to determine the policy to be followed with respect to foreign companies. It was important, he said, to get a broad consensus on the issue and that was being attempted.

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