Observer of Politics & Business 15 May 1998 - page 1
                        Brigadier Vijai K Nair

President Clinton, was seen on BBC, May 12, 1998, pompously issuing India
orders to sign the CTBT without conditions or face blanket sanctions as
though the billion strong Indian electorate had elected him to Govern India.
In comparison, one did not hear a murmur from the White-House when the
Chinese and French continued nuclear tests immediately after the NPT got its
indefinite extension. That too after Clinton had announced a "National
Emergency," in November 1994, to deal with the threat of non-proliferation.
Presumably in US parlance there is a difference between horizontal
proliferation and vertical proliferation.

Even there, a dichotomy exists. The US hummed and hawed after India tested
its nuclear weapons on May 11 challenging Clinton's "National Emergency Law"
by proliferating horizontally. It was only after the nature of this
proliferation changed to vertical proliferation, on May 13, by testing highly
sophisticated sub-Kiloton nuclear devices did he clamp sanctions on India.

Clinton's greatest achievement towards the elimination of nuclear weapons -
in 1998 - has been to: ratify the means to expand NATO and heighten the
threat to Russia by moving the nuclear phalanx onto their borders; impose
sanctions on two companies in Pakistan and the DPRK who have no trade with
the outside world; legitimise the illegal sale of 7000 MOPs computers that
had been illegally sold to China; and offer the Chinese space and missile
technologies to improve their strategic capabilities. Commendable, to say the

While it is well nigh impossible to work ones way through the labyrinth of US
strategic thought, it is another thing to grips with the US $ - economic
sanctions as mandated under US Law NPA-1994. See Box. [not attached]

To start with, the US placed trade sanctions on India in 1974 after the
'Pokharan PNE' and has never lifted them to date. So the phenomenon is not
new. Secondly, the Indian Government has carried out in depth cost benefit
analysis of the Indian economic and strategic being and come to the
conclusion, that while it will hurt, India could live with US endeavours to
strangulate its economy - for that is exactly what Clinton's sanctions amount

The truth of the matter is that domestic capacities exist - albeit poorly
managed so far. If Clinton's intention was to fuel the fires of resentment he
has done a particularly good job.

With US sanctions, pain is unavoidable, but how much can be administered
effectively once the cat is out? And to what purpose?

Some points to ponder are:

(a) Ever since 1974 all US domestic laws have been applied to India and there
is little else that it can do without actually declaring itself hostile to
India. That would be a US decision about which India can do nothing. It would
require an Indian response that is well thought out.

(b) US aid to India is a paltry $30 million, a fraction of what India farms
out in aid to other countries.

(c) Stopping loans from US banks would hardly be noticed by India as they do
not amount to all that much.

(d) Voting against provision of loans to India from institutions such as the
IMF is a function of votes - and even then, it cannot stop what has been
sanctioned and is in the pipeline. The effect would begin to be felt in 3
years time.

(e) The US cannot ignore the Indian market vis-`-vis its own economic
imperatives, except to its disadvantage.

(f) India is not party to the NPT or the CTBT and, therefore, has not
violated any international norms or agreements. The question of 'Opinio
Juris' as used by the US and UK at the ICJ on the question of legality of
nuclear weapons - is now on the other foot.

(g) And the threat to stop high technology exports to India is a lot of wind.
Such restrictions have been imposed for the last two decades and nothing of
technological value has been forthcoming from the US.

(h) US sanctions in the defence sector are mythical. Neither has the US
permitted any export of meaningful military equipment to India, nor has the
Indian military establishment shown any inclination to induct equipment of US
origin. In this area US interests are the only ones that will hurt as their
efforts to wean the Indian military away from Russian equipment will face a
set back.

Admiral K. K. Nayyar, Chairman of the Forum for Strategic & Security Studies,
sums it up eloquently, "sanctions imposed by the US will have marginal
immediate effects. In the long-term, it will be a blessing in disguise. The
effect of these sanctions will be to change the direction which the
enrichment of the Indian economy has followed so far. In the future, growth
will have to be from bottom up, and the 'trickle  down' concept, which has
not worked so far, will be buried once and for all."

Brigadier Vijai K Nair
Executive Editor
Forum for Strategic & Security Studies
Safdarjung Airport
New Delhi 110 003
Tele: 091 118 572483 & 091 11 462 8336. Fax: 091 11572425
E-mail: [email protected]

[email protected]************