U.S-INDIA RELATIONS (House of Representatives - September 29, 1998)

[Page: H9185]

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to talk about several important issues affecting the relationship between the two largest democracies in the world, that is the United States and India.

Yesterday, Congress took an important step towards getting those relations back in a positive direction. The House-Senate Conference on Agricultural Appropriations approved a provision that would give the President authority to waive sanctions that were imposed on both India and Pakistan as a result of the nuclear tests that those countries conducted earlier this year.

Mr. Speaker, it is important and necessary to provide the President with proper sanction waiver authority so that he may have more flexibility in negotiating with India and Pakistan.

Pursuant to the Glenn amendment to the Arms Export Control Act, the President was required to invoke severe economic sanctions after the nuclear tests in May. These unilateral sanctions prohibit a variety of commercial and technical transactions between the United States and India. U.S.-India economic relations were growing in a positive direction at the time of the tests. In fact, the U.S. was India's largest trading partner.

The sanctions that were imposed after the nuclear tests have disrupted a variety of bilateral assistance programs, including technical support for the development of financial institutions and other market reforms. These reforms offer short- and long-term opportunities for U.S. companies, large and small, to gain greater entry into India's vast consumer market and to help meet India's significant infrastructure improvement needs.

Under the unilateral sanctions, we stand to lose many of these opportunities. In addition, the sanctions require the U.S. to block international financial institutions from making loans to India.

The sanctions have not achieved the desired result, namely gaining India's support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. However, several rounds of negotiations between our deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, and the special envoy of India's Prime Minister Vajpayee, Mr. Jaswant Singh, have shown

significant progress.

Giving President Clinton the authority to waive sanctions in exchange for significant agreements for India, as well as Pakistan, will help to move forward the process and ultimately enhance our nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I was joined by 21 of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in this body in sending a letter to the conferees, to the ag conferees, urging them to support this important sanctions waiver provision, and I congratulate the conferees for approving this provision last night.

Yesterday evening, India's Prime Minister Vajpayee left the United States after a brief visit to New York that included a significant speech before the United Nations, as well as a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Prime Minister Sharif. Prime Minister Vajpayee's speech to the U.N. General Assembly provided a positive foundation for improving U.S.-India relations.

I was also heartened by the new chapter in India-Pakistan ties signalled by Thursday's meeting between the two prime ministers of India and Pakistan.

By expressing India's readiness to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Prime Minister Vajpayee has helped to vastly improve the climate and relations between the United States and India.

I hope our administration will redouble its efforts to work with the Indian government to achieve results on nuclear proliferation of other issues.

I was also very encouraged by the outcome of the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers' meeting, particularly with regard to peacefully settling the Kashmir issue establishing better communications between the two governments and increasing economic and trade cooperation.

I agree that these issues, particularly the Kashmir issue, should be addressed on a bilateral basis between the two countries.

The prime minister of India's appeal for a concerted international plan to combat terrorism and safeguard human rights is consistent with American views on these issues and deserves the support of the United States and the international community. In fact, the leadership that the prime minister expressed on all of these issues points to the importance of finally granting India a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Besides the obvious justification for this step, the fact that India has one-sixth of the world's population and has contributed significantly to U.N. peacekeeping efforts, India offers a model for developing countries based on democracy and tolerance and as the prime minister's speech showed yesterday, India has important ideas on global stability issues that the rest of the world should listen to.

I have sponsored legislation expressing support for India's bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council and I hope that the prime minister's visit will add momentum to that effort. I also hope that the progress we have seen in the last few days creates the conditions to allow President Clinton's trip to South Asia to go forward in the near future.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to remind my colleagues here and the American people of an important milestone. October 2, this Friday, is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who led India's independence effort. I mention Gandhi's birthday because this House recently approved legislation, that I cosponsored with my colleague, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. McCollum), that would authorize the government of India to establish a memorial to honor Mahatma Gandhi in Washington, D.C. There is similar legislation pending in the Senate, and I hope our colleagues in the other body will approve that legislation, ideally in time for the commemoration of Gandhi's birthday on Friday, and as another expression of friendship between our two countries.

[Page: H9186]