Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


4Another Round of Nuclear Tests in India
4-5,7,Sanctions: US Imposition / Costs & Categories / Time Table / Impact on US
8-9,16Businesses in India / Pending Projects / Affect on Military Sales
4US Contacts: Pakistan, China / International Reaction to Tests
5-6,7-8Pres Clinton's Call to Pakistani PM / Dep Secy Talbott Leads US Mission to Pakistan / No US Mission to India
6,8Similar Sanctions Against Pakistan / Security Guarantees for Pakistan
7Nuclear Capabilities
9,11Congressional Criticism of US Response and of Tests and US Contacts / Future Tests by India
9-10Nonproliferation Issues Discussed With India and Pakistan / No Advance Warning
11Signature to CTBT
11Possibility of Nuclear Tests by Other Nuclear Powers

DPB # 59
WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 1998, 1:30 P.M.


QUESTION: Another subject - on India, there's now been another round of Indian tests. What do you make of that? Do you have any confidence that this will be the end of it?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this - obviously the additional announcement by India of these tests is stunning. And given the international condemnation that came in the last 24 hours, it's really impossible to fathom what the Indian Government thinks the result of another set of tests would be.

As you know, President Clinton announced in Europe that he was going to impose a set of sanctions that will have a profound effect on the US-Indian relationship. The scope of these sanctions is very significant. President Clinton also spoke to Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, I guess, in the middle of last night. They had a good discussion. He explained the importance of restraint.

Secretary Albright just recently spoke to the Foreign Minister of China about urging the Pakistanis to not respond with nuclear tests of their own. What I can say is that we deeply deplore this second set of tests and they're unfathomable. The sanctions that are now going to be imposed will have a profound effect on our relations with India. It's hard to give you an exact number at this time, but I can say that the international reaction has been rather dramatic. Japan, the largest bilateral donor of economic assistance, has denounced the tests. China expressed its grave concern. Japan also announced it would consider the suspension of its aid. Malaysia deplored the action. President Yeltsin condemned the tests. Ukraine invoked the memory of Chernobyl. Canada's Foreign Minister called these tests a major step backwards. Australia and New Zealand have lodged official protests.

The sanctions that are now in place are going to pose very stiff penalties on the government -- they're going to involve very stiff penalties on the government of India, including development assistance, military sales and exchanges, trade and dual-use technology, US loan guarantees. The requirement for the United States to oppose loans and assistance in the international financial institutions could potentially cost India billions of dollars in desperately needed financing for infrastructure and other projects. The prohibition on loans by US banks to the government of India and on Ex-Im and OPIC activities could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, affect projects already approved and could cause major US companies and financial institutions to rethink entirely their presence and operations in India.

So clearly, India has made a grave mistake that will redown to its disadvantage for a long, long time to come.

QUESTION: A technical question and then I have some more substantive questions.

MR. RUBIN: We'll just leave the floor with you for a while then, Carol.

QUESTION: Do these sanctions take effect immediately?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the decision has been made to impose them. We are now running through the traps of suspending all of the activities that I described to you. I think the short answer to your question is that they do take effect immediately. But I must say that what you need to bear in mind is that this is a new law that has never been used. We are entering new territory - this has never happened before where in one fell swoop a whole set of bilateral activities and multilateral support is going to be cut off.

There are a lot of questions about what's in the pipeline and what's not. We have made some preliminary examinations of what this would involve and obviously there's an exception for humanitarian items, but I can run through some of the general categories of numbers with you. But clearly, this is a major, major set of sanctions that will sting for a long, long time to come.

QUESTION: Did the President get an assurance from Pakistan that it would not test?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this -- the President had a very constructive discussion with the Prime Minister of Pakistan; and as a result of that discussion, a mission is going to be sent to Pakistan, headed by Deputy Secretary Talbott and General Zinni, the Commander in Chief of the regional command. They are going to be leaving this afternoon; they are going to be meeting with the Pakistani Government on Friday. They are obviously going to discuss the question that has now arisen by India's nuclear test and the danger to the region of India's testing program, and will be following up, of course, on the President's urging of restraint on the Pakistani Government.

That mission is going to be leaving later this afternoon, and they will be working closely with the Pakistani Government to try to insure that this unfathomable decision by the Indian Government does not spawn a nuclear arms race on the Indian Subcontinent, and that all steps we can take are taken to encourage restraint and to try to stabilize what could be an increasingly dangerous situation.

QUESTION: So the answer to that question right now is no - that despite a direct call from the President of the United States, Pakistan has not given you assurances --

MR. RUBIN: I am not the President's spokesman, and I am not going to get into the habit of confirming specific details of conversations between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Pakistan. I described to you the general nature of the conversation. I am not going to get into any of the details of that conversation other than to say that Deputy Secretary Talbott has been asked by the President and the Secretary to launch this diplomatic mission to Pakistan; they will be leaving later today. At that point, we will then be in a position to give you more information, after they've had some additional discussions. But I would not characterize my answer in the way you did.

QUESTION: Has the United States told Pakistan that it would be subject to sanctions as well? I mean, have you specifically said that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this - the law is rather clear, and I think we have demonstrated that we will implement this law. It's extremely important that India's neighbors not follow the dangerous path that India has taken. The law speaks for itself, and if Pakistan were to take similar steps, the reaction would be much the same.

QUESTION: Given India's --

MR. RUBIN: This is the last one we can give you, before your colleagues think you're dominating the floor.

QUESTION: No, it's not.

QUESTION: Well, other people have done the same on other subjects, so I don't feel that bad.

MR. RUBIN: Well, we're on number ten.

QUESTION: Given India's action, has there been any thought given to the international community sort of saying, okay, India is now, in fact, a member of the nuclear club and trying to approach from that point of view - altering the NPT to include India in it?

MR. RUBIN: At this point, I don't think we are interested in any kind of nuclear embrace with India. What we are doing is imposing stiff penalties on India for this unfathomable decision to move against the increasing understanding in the world that nonproliferation is the wave of the future and that the spread of nuclear weapons doesn't add to anybody's security.

However, let me put this in context by saying that I've seen some rather alarmist and dramatic reporting that strikes me as way out of line with the reality. It has been true for some time that with regard to both India and Pakistan, we have said that we believe that they have an ability to put together a limited number of nuclear weapons in a relatively short amount of time. So I think it would also behoove those talking about this and explaining it to the American public to not get into high drama about the sudden danger that didn't exist yesterday.

Clearly, this threat has existed for some time. It has been dramatized and increased by these tests, but let's not go into a situation where we are exaggerating the change. For many years now, we have said that India and Pakistan have an ability to put together a limited number of nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time. Obviously, India has just done that.

QUESTION: This is a very straightforward question about Commander Zinni. How do you spell his name?

MR. RUBIN: General Zinni, Z-i-n-n-i. He's the regional CINC.

QUESTION: What region is that?

MR. RUBIN: That's Cent-Com, the Central Command.

QUESTION: And what's his first name?

MR. RUBIN: Anthony Zinni.

QUESTION: And on that trip, a couple of questions. Will they be going to India?


QUESTION: They will not. Will anyone be going to India? Will there be an envoy sent to India?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any at this time.

QUESTION: How about China? China is also regarded as an adversary of the Indians.

MR. RUBIN: I don't think the motivation is to go anywhere there's an adversary of the Indians. I think the motivation is to talk to the Pakistanis about the danger that has been posed to the Subcontinent and the South Asian region by this unfathomable decision by the Indian Government. The mission's sole and exclusive location and - I'm struggling for this word - the only place they're going is Pakistan.

QUESTION: In your effort to prevent Pakistan from following suit, are you considering granting them some sort of security guarantee against Indian attack?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard that. I think that obviously we will try to bring home the advantages of not testing, and the disadvantages of testing.

QUESTION: But will you be offering to share, to give a sense of early warning capability? Is there something - having a general there suggests there will be some very detailed --

MR. RUBIN: Right, and I hope that given the extreme seriousness of this situation, that you will bear with us in allowing us to have such discussions with the Pakistani Government before we discuss them publicly.

QUESTION: On the question of sanctions, do you have any more detailed information? And do you have any idea how this will impact US businesses that operate in India?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, as I said, it will clearly have a profound impact on a number of American businesses that have been operating there. It could cause major US companies and financial institutions to rethink entirely their presence and operations in India. It will affect the US ability to give loans by US banks to the government of India, and could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and affect existing projects.

Let me just say this - with regard to credit and guarantees by any US agency or instrumentality, which is one of the sanctions, there are several million dollars in TDA grants now pending; there are several billion dollars of Ex-Im guarantees that are now pending; there are $10 billion worth of OPIC insurance and financing pending. I'm not saying that each and every one of those projects would necessarily be affected, I'm trying to give you a magnitude that's involved here.

As well, when you look at the international financial institutions, there are some $3.8 billion worth of loan approvals that are coming down the pike in international financial institutions. Again, we don't have a flat veto in every case, but if you see what's going on around the world and you see the fact that Japan and Germany and other countries that are leading players in this area have reacted in much the same way as the United States. I think the Indian Government badly miscalculated the effect of this decision and perhaps thought there would only be a more limited effect from these sweeping penalties that have now been imposed.

QUESTION: Jamie, one more -- the US and India, I believe, are jointly working on a jet fighter together. Do you know if this would be affected?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not familiar with that particular project; but if we were, I can assure you it would be affected. It certainly terminates all military sales and financing; it terminates licenses from munitions list items, including over $500 million that have either been approved or are scheduled for approval -- there's some million dollars worth of financing and military sales in the pipeline. So these are sweeping, across-the-board sanctions that will have an impact for a long, long time to come.

QUESTION: I guess the sanctions law is the law, but some lawmakers seem to be critical of the Administration's response to this, including Speaker Gingrich --

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: -- on whether they're defending India or defending nuclear explosions or --

MR. RUBIN: Or just generally being critical.

QUESTION: Right. So would you like to respond?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I need a more specific criticism because I certainly know that every day Speaker Gingrich and others find something to criticize. So I need a specific criticism - that we did what?

QUESTION: Just critical of the sharp Administration response and critical of the sanctions.

MR. RUBIN: That he doesn't want them imposed?

QUESTION: Well, I don't have it in front of me, so rather than misquote --

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this -- whosoever might criticize us from Congress or elsewhere, let me say this - that as soon as these tests occurred, our reaction has been strong and swift. We made clear that we deplored this action; we contacted the relevant governments immediately.

President Clinton, since the decision, Under Secretary Pickering - since the announcement, and Assistant Secretary Inderfurth have met with the Indian Ambassador, they have spoken - Under Secretary Pickering - on the phone with the Indian Foreign Secretary, each day they spoke with the ambassador; President Clinton telephoned the Pakistani Prime Minister; the ambassador from Pakistan met with our Assistant Secretary; our Embassy in Islamabad has been active; Secretary Albright has spoken to the Chinese; and now we've swiftly imposed these sanctions. So other than being able to guarantee that nothing bad can happen in the world, as some seem to think we can, I think the Administration has done what it can, given the fact that the Indian Government made such a deplorable decision.

QUESTION: In any of those communications with the Indian Government - and you sort of touched on this in answer to Carol's first question, but I may have missed something - has the Indian Government said that this is the end of their tests?

MR. RUBIN: Well, yesterday in the conversation between Under Secretary Pickering and the Indian Government, we did not get an indication that they would agree to our urging that the first set be the last set. So to that extent, I don't think we were surprised that this happened.

QUESTION: But there's been no communication after the second set, saying that that was the end? Because there are reports that the Indian Government has said that.

MR. RUBIN: Yes. I do not have any information current today to suggest that we, in our contacts with the Indian Government, have been assured that this is the end of it.

QUESTION: Back to Howard's question on the subject of specific criticisms, one criticism that is out there is that the Clinton Administration had made a tragic miscalculation in its relations with India; that it had, although not intelligence-wise, it had been given plenty of warnings that something like this could happen. Nevertheless, you continued to pursue relations, planning a trip by the President and, even in recent weeks, that the Administration was given signals that this might happen in meetings here in Washington; and never acted on it, never made the sort of effort to prevent it that we've seen in the past from other Administrations.

MR. RUBIN: I would categorically reject that kind of Monday morning quarterbacking by people who know very little about the functioning of government.

We made nonproliferation the highest priority in our discussions with the Indian and Pakistani Governments. When Secretary Albright was there, it was at the top of her agenda. When Ambassador Richardson was there, it was at the top of his agenda. We were appalled at the fact that in meetings as recently as last week, there was no indication given - contrary to those unnamed critics you mentioned, who seem to have information that is nonexistent that there were indications from the Indian Government in communications with us that they were going to take these actions.

This Department has been in contact with the Indian Government, unlike those officials who make up stories to try to find something to put themselves on television. In our view, during these discussions, there was no indication. Secretary of State Albright was appalled that in a high-level contact as recently as last week, with National Security Council officials, Deputy Secretary Talbott, with Assistant Secretary Inderfurth and Under Secretary Pickering, we had no reason to believe that this set of tests was forthcoming.

Therefore, there's really only two remaining criticisms. One is the intelligence criticism; and I don't care to get into that from this podium, other than to say that obviously we did not have an advanced warning of this. The CIA has talked about what it's going to do in that regard. With regard to engagement with India, I don't think any of the serious students of US policy toward the Indian Subcontinent believed that we would have had a better chance of convincing India and Pakistan to not take - or let's stick with India - had a better chance to convince India to not take this step by isolating them. I think the majority of the opinion of serious scholars, as opposed to quick Monday morning quarterbacks, is that by engaging the Indian Government, we were demonstrating to them the beneficial results of a relationship with the West and with the United States that could only be possible in the absence of testing.

Their criticism would only be valid if we had not made clear our views on this issue. I have a three-page chronology, which I don't care to read right here. But what I can summarize for you is that in all the major contacts between our government and the Indian Government at the Presidential level, at the Foreign Minister level, at the Under Secretary level, the Indian Government had no doubt about the seriousness with which we consider the nonproliferation issue and the result in relations if they were to go forward and make such a test.

No critic who makes such claims can seem to deal with the simple fact that India had an election; that a political party was elected that made a decision contrary to its indications that it was going to review this subject for several months. That was a democratic decision that we think is profoundly and dangerously wrong. But it was a decision that we in the United States cannot prevent if we're going to believe in the concept of democracy and other countries being able to make their own decisions. The only possible way to stop it, I guess, in the view of these Monday morning quarterbacks, were somehow to go in there and stop it. But, I mean, that's a ridiculous charge, and is typical after-the-fact-know-it-allness.

QUESTION: Did the Administration suggest to India yesterday that if it agreed to sign on to the CTBT, the sanctions might be either postponed or not levied?

MR. RUBIN: No, Under Secretary Pickering made clear that what the President said publicly about signing the CTBT and the not taking any additional tests and joining in other international regimes in the area of nonproliferation were the minimum necessary to avoid things getting worse. But he did not say that doing so would adjust our decision on sanctions.

QUESTION: Are you confident that China and France will not now take this opportunity to test?

MR. RUBIN: Well, one can't be confident of every other government's decision, and one can't know in advance everything that's going to happen in the world. We certainly hope that this does not change the determination of the major countries - China, Russia, United Kingdom, France -- it certainly doesn't change our view that the Comprehensive Test Ban is in our interest and is in their interest. The best way to put pressure on those who have not signed or who would purport to test is to get this treaty ratified, which increases the ability of the international community to place pressure on the recalcitrant countries, like India.

QUESTION: Very quick question - you said you didn't want to read that tick-tock that you have. Would you release it in print?

MR. RUBIN: No, but I'll try to find a way to get it communicated to you.


QUESTION: Jump back to the sanctions on India. I heard we were proposing World Bank loans be stopped to India, but I don't think we have enough clout to do that by ourselves. Have any other countries --

MR. RUBIN: What I said was, I can't predict exactly what would happen with those loans; but what I can say is that some of the key countries that are involved in the international financial institutions, like Japan and like Germany, have taken very similar stances to the United States in reacting to this test. But we will have to see how things develop. I would expect at the G-8 meeting, this issue to be a subject of intensive discussions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:15 P.M.)

[end of document]