17 May 1998
(Congressional action hinges on nuclear restraint) (830) By Wendy S. Ross USIA White House Correspondent Birmingham -- National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger says the U.S. Congress would be more likely to lift the ban on military aid to Pakistan if that country did not proceed with nuclear testing in response to India. "I have reason to believe if Pakistan were not to test, we would have a far greater chance to make inroads in the Congress on the Pressler amendment than we have before," Berger told reporters May 16. The amendment, named after former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler (Republican-South Dakota), states that the United States cannot provide any military equipment specific to Pakistan unless the President can certify that they do not possess a nuclear weapon. Since 1990 no U.S. President has been able to certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device, a senior U.S. official explained. Berger indicated that there appears to be some sentiment in the U.S. Congress to find a way to resolve the issue of 28-F 16 fighter planes that Pakistan ordered from the United States, paid $501 million for, but never received, because the Pressler amendment was passed after the funds were transferred. Berger said the Clinton administration has been trying for four years to find a way to resolve this problem. "If Pakistan were not to test, we would have a far greater chance to make inroads on the Pressler Amendment in the Congress, in a bipartisan way, than we have had before," he said. Berger said he hopes "the Pakistani government will decide that their national interest is better served by not testing than by testing. If they make that decision, I think, as the President indicated, they will capture the high ground in the longstanding regional struggle in South Asia." But Berger said it has not been his sense that the Pakistanis "put a price tag on not testing. This is going to be a decision that they make based upon their own judgment of their national interest ... I hope that they will decide that it is in their national interest as we head to the future to be part of the tide of history that is giving up nuclear testing rather than the undercurrent of history reflected by the Indians that seeks to go backwards." President Clinton and Berger both said May 16 that the joint G-8 Summit statement of May 15 condemning India's nuclear testing is "a strong" one and needs to be seen as the basis for constructive action. In separate venues they responded to reporters seeking a U.S. response to Pakistani criticism that the G-8 leaders statement on India's nuclear tests was too weak and did not offer any concrete action. "The statement of the Eight is a strong statement, condemning unequivocally, without any hesitation, India's testing, and indicating that it has and will affect the dealings of every one of these countries with India," Berger said. He told reporters that the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia were united in their condemnation of India's actions. The National Security Advisor said the United States, Japan and Canada have responded by taking actions themselves against India, as have the Dutch, Swedes and the Danes, and said other countries are considering actions too. "There is no question that the sense of urgency and concern that is felt by the others has been significantly enhanced by their conversations with the President, who feels this very strongly," Berger said. He noted that President Clinton in the G-8 discussions made the case that nuclear testing "is a dangerous step, that it is important to speak out against it." "What we have now to do is to build" on the statement, President Clinton said in a May 16 interview with CNN. The G-8 statement says India's action "runs counter to the will expressed by 149 signatories to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to cease nuclear testing, to efforts to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and to steps to enhance regional and international peace and security." Nuclear testing "is not a good thing for the world," Clinton told CNN. "The Russians and the Americans, we're trying to lower our nuclear arsenals, we're trying to make this problem go away for the world and we do not need to have a whole lot of other people with small nuclear arsenals on the assumption that they'll never be used, you can't do that." In a related development, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrived in England May 16 to brief President Clinton on his talks in Islamabad to persuade Pakistani official not to begin nuclear testing. Talbott met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan and other senior Pakistani officials.