- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

State Department policy-makers are deeply split between those who want to lift sanctions against India to clear the way for a new strategic alliance and those who fear that would send a dangerous signal to potential nuclear-weapons states.
The sanctions, imposed after India shocked the world with a series of nuclear tests in 1998, are seen as an obstacle by a powerful faction that hopes to build an alliance with India, partly as a counterweight to China. U.S.-Indian military ties have quietly resumed, Indias ambassador to Washington, Lalit Mansingh, told The Washington Times last week, but U.S. sales of weapons and nuclear power technology still are blocked.
The nonproliferation bureau at State, on the other hand, strongly opposes lifting the sanctions for fear of undermining U.S. efforts to prevent other nations from developing nuclear weapons, said State Department officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will visit India tomorrow during a tour of Asia aimed at building support for a missile defense system that the Bush administration says it is committed to developing.
He also will try to win some sort of pledge from Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on limiting nuclear weapons development and deployment that could appease the nonproliferation advocates within the U.S. government, sources said.
Later this month, and despite the ban on military relations imposed by the sanctions, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Henry H. Shelton, will visit India, The Washington Times reported last week.
A Pentagon official said yesterday that "the general will talk about military-to-military relationships."
However, discussions about ending sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan after both nations conducted nuclear tests in 1998 depend upon an ongoing review of South Asia issues at the National Security Council, said one official who asked not to be identified.
A powerful pro-India lobby in Congress, bolstered by contributions from Indian-American high-tech millionaires, is pushing to waive sanctions on India, said a source in the office of Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on South Asia and the Near East.
"I have been making the case for the last two years that it is time to lift sanctions on India, and I am optimistic that this administration will finally do so," Mr. Brownback told The Washington Times.
"While the situation with Pakistan is different … it is logical to lift them on Pakistan as well."
The move to lift sanctions and tighten Indian-U.S. military and trade ties comes as U.S. affection for Pakistan, a Cold War ally, has been diluted by the military coup in Islamabad and that nations growing tolerance of the Afghan Taliban and domestic militant Islamic groups attacking India in Kashmir and other targets.
The internal policy struggle at State and the National Security Council, amid one of several policy reviews that the new administration is carrying out, came as India began the largest military exercises in a decade on Pakistans border Monday.
Some 50,000 troops and about 120 combat aircraft are taking part in the five-day war games during which the air force will practice new tactics for shooting down "enemy" planes and end with a display of firepower in the Pokhran range, where Indias nuclear blasts were carried out.
"Were trying to create as realistic a battlefield environment as possible, but I must emphasize this is a training exercise and not any demonstration," Air Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, who heads the western air command, was quoted as saying.
The nonproliferation specialists at State say lifting sanctions against India could send the wrong signal to Ukraine, South Africa and other countries that have given up their nuclear weapons programs under the belief that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would keep the number of nuclear weapons states at five.
"On the other hand," said a source close to the deliberations, "pure balance-of-power people say, 'Nonsense. Sanctions didnt get a change of behavior and we need to upgrade relations with India."
In 1998, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said that India considered China, not Pakistan, to be the most important threat to its security.
As U.S.-Chinese relations deteriorate, some American officials see India as a foil to Chinese power in Asia.
Indian officials said last week they would help the United States maintain free navigation of the seas to ensure the flow of Middle East oil to U.S. allies in East Asia such as Japan and South Korea.
Shipping lanes for those oil tankers pass through portions of the South China Sea, which China claims as territorial waters but which the United States maintains are international waters.
It was over those disputed waters that a U.S. surveillance plane collided April 1 with a tailing Chinese jet, destroying the jet and forcing the U.S. plane to land on Hainan island, where it remains.
James Clad, a professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, said the United States should lift sanctions against India only after consulting with allies such as Japan, which is hostile to nuclear proliferation.
Mr. Armitage visits Japan and South Korea this week on his trip to Asia.
The United States also must find a way to improve ties and lift sanctions against India that does not alienate Pakistan and does not endorse Indias traditional domination of its smaller neighbors in South Asia, Mr. Clad said.


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