- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

The Bush administration this week told key members of Congress that it will lift sanctions imposed on Pakistan and India after their nuclear tests in 1998, according to sources close to the issue.

This step, part of the White House's still-unfolding strategy of using American economic might to foster cooperation with those countries in the new war on terrorism, could come as early as next week.

Top State Department officials broke the news to key members of Congress in closed-door briefings over the past two days, according to a House Republican aide.

Even before last week's terrorist attacks, the administration had been moving toward closer ties with India, a plan that included ways to ease sanctions. The Treasury Department is also already working to reschedule payments on Pakistan's $600 million in bilateral debt, officials said.

Sentiment in Congress is strong to lift the sanctions, especially against Pakistan, now that its president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has promised the United States wide-ranging help in rooting out terrorist networks.

"We asked the Pakistani government to choose sides and they have chosen to stand with us," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Delaware Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement on Thursday. "I believe that we, in turn, must stand with them."

House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, echoed Mr. Biden's comments.

"We have to give something to them, and I think the sanctions have outlived their usefulness," he said.

At the same time, industry analysts cautioned that the end of the sanctions would not be a bonanza for American exporters, because trade with the two countries is small compared with other nations.

"The effects of lifting the sanctions, at least in the short term, will be symbolic," said Roger Majak, a Clinton administration official who helped enforce the sanctions.

Both India and Pakistan were hit by U.S. sanctions under the so-called Glenn amendment after they tested nuclear weapons in 1998. The law immediately froze assistance from several agencies that promoted trade and investment with the two countries. The sanctions also compelled the Treasury Department to urge international financial institutions like the World Bank to cut off assistance to both countries.

The sanctions also put stringent limits on exports of commercial goods to Pakistan that can also have military uses. Those sanctions sliced into exports of commercial aircraft by the Chicago-based Boeing Co., and construction projects run by Houston-based Enron Corp.

Even before 1998, military and foreign aid to Pakistan was banned because of the country's nuclear weapons research. And, additional sanctions were applied in 1999 when Gen. Musharraf overthrew a democratically elected government in a bloodless coup.

Action next week is likely to remove the penalties imposed in 1998, something the president can do by executive order, the House aide said.

Congressional action would be required to change the other sanctions.

Lifting the full range of sanctions could eventually unlock new arms sales to Pakistan. In 1990, the sanctions blocked a shipment of F-16 fighter jets that Pakistan paid for, but never received.

"The pressure will be to respond to the needs of our newfound allies," said Joel Johnson, who handles international issues for the Aerospace Industries Association.

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