A NEW APPROACH FOR SOUTH ASIA (Senate - July 21, 1998)

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Mr. MOYNIHAN. Mr. President. With the recent nuclear tests in South Asia, we are closer to nuclear war than we have been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is a challenge which will compel the highest attention and the most subtle diplomacy. It requires extensive discussion with India and Pakistan. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott has begun such a dialogue. He is a gifted diplomat; however, I must emphasize that despite the considerable talents of the Deputy Secretary, this is an issue which requires the President's close involvement.

Congress must also be involved in addressing the issues which arise from the nuclear tests in South Asia. Legislation is required to lift the sanctions which these actions triggered. As such, I was pleased that my friend from Delaware, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has set out a very sensible approach to South Asia. In a recent speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Senator Biden challenges us to think anew about South Asia and calls on Congress to provide the President with the flexibility to negotiate in South Asia. This must entail providing him with broad authority to waive the present sanctions.

Most importantly, Senator Biden calls on the President to make `arrangements to go to India.' This is paramount and I hope that the President will note this wise counsel. The actions which we take to address this volatile situation will have profound repercussion on the future of the subcontinent and the world. Such stakes require the President's active participation. We must talk with them as a matter not just of their survival, but of our own as well. And we must stop supposing that sanctions are the answer. They are not.

Mr. President, I commend the remarks of our colleague, Senator Biden, and ask that they be printed in the Record.

The remarks follow:

A New Approach for South Asia


Two months ago, in the Rajasthan desert, the Government of India claimed to have exploded five nuclear devices. Just 15 days later, the Government of Pakistan followed suit.

These events, in a few short weeks, expanded the acknowledged nuclear club by forty percent. They confront the United States, as well as the rest of the international community, with a monumental challenge, calling into question decades of U.S. non-proliferation policy.

Addressing this challenge--devising a new approach toward South Asia--is the subject of my remarks today. I thank you for the kind invitation.

We can expect the policy community to dramatically increase the time and attention it devotes to South Asia in the coming months, but you at the Carnegie Endowment can credibly claim that you were focusing on nuclear tensions long before it was even remotely fashionable. If only more had listened.

Clearly the tests by India and Pakistan require us to reexamine many aspects of our foreign and national security policy. We need to jettison some long-held beliefs that have acted as self-imposed constraints on U.S. policy.

Traditional approaches have not worked in the past in South Asia and will not work in the present situation. We need to think `outside the box.' Most of all, our national interests throughout Asia dictate that we end our benign neglect of South Asia. Let me outline the shortcomings of our policy:

First, we have not acknowledged or addressed the fundamental sense of insecurity felt by both India and Pakistan since the end of the Cold War.

It is both facile and misleading to blame India's decision to test solely on the election of the BJP government. While the BJP certainly had a domestic political imperative to test, there was already a consensus across the political spectrum in India (except for the Communists) that India needed to conduct tests.

Why? Because of India's underlying perception in the aftermath of the Cold War that it was isolated, vulnerable, and not taken seriously.

For much of the Cold War, but especially after the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, a measure of stability prevailed with China and the United States as key supporters of Pakistan, and the Soviet Union as the chief ally of India. This set of power relationships, combined with the threat of U.S. sanctions, restrained India and Pakistan from either testing or deploying nuclear weapons.

With the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, India could no longer rely on Moscow to balance China. In addition, India perceives us--falsely, I believe--as cultivating China as the regional hegemon that will preserve Asian stability.

The perceived U.S. preoccupation with China generates deep concern in New Delhi. Remember: China defeated India in the 1962 war and occupied several thousand square kilometers of disputed territory, a humiliation from which India has yet to recover. And a decade ago Indian and China massed several hundred thousand troops along their disputed border.

India's sense of strategic encirclement was heightened by reports of Chinese missile and nuclear transfers to Pakistan and budding Chinese military and security ties to Burma throughout the 1990s. Pakistan's test of a missile with a 1,000 kilometer range last April appeared to fit this pattern even though U.S. officials pointed to North Korea as the real source of the missile.

To put this in context, how would China feel if the tables were turned? What if India transferred its missiles to Vietnam, fighter planes to Mongolia, or a nuclear bomb design to Taiwan?

In such an environment, India felt that it was on its own and needed to demonstrate its capabilities, change the strategic landscape, in order to be taken more seriously by China, the United States, and other powers.

Pakistan's motives for testing are far less complicated than India's, but no less serious. Its strategic aim has been to resist Indian hegemony and guarantee its survival. Just as India's drive for a nuclear device can be traced to the defeat it suffered at the hands of China in 1962 and China's subsequent nuclear test in 1964, Pakistan's nuclear program can be traced to the role India played in splitting Pakistan into two with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Many in Pakistan believe that India has never accepted the partition of the Indian subcontinent back in 1947. In Pakistan, therefore, nuclear capability is seen as the ultimate guarantor of its statehood.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Pakistan felt it needed to test to reestablish the deterrence that was disrupted by India's tests.

The end of the Cold War also made Pakistan feel abandoned and isolated. The United States no longer needed Pakistan to contain Soviet power. The Pressler amendment, invoked in 1990, banned aid to Pakistan and led directly to the erosion of Pakistan's conventional arsenal. This was seen as a betrayal, and has limited our influence with Pakistan ever since.

Unfortunately, we failed to acknowledge or act upon these fundamental shifts affecting Pakistan, just as we ignored the changes in India's security perceptions.

The second shortcoming of our South Asia policy is that its two chief elements--commerce and sanctions--are contradictory. We use sanctions to punish proliferation at the same time we are promoting commercial ties to take advantage of long-overdue market openings in both countries.

This policy is half right. The expansion of trade and investment ties with India and Pakistan will help these countries realize their full potential as well as benefit our own economic interests.

But the application of a one-size-fits-all non-proliferation policy is not appropriate to the special circumstances in South Asia. It lumps India and Pakistan with the far more dangerous outlaw states such as Libya and Iraq. It ignores the great lengths both countries have been prepared to go in order to achieve a basic sense of security. It presumes our influence is much greater than it actually is. Finally, it has prevented us from developing creative approaches to stabilize nuclear and missile development in the region.

Legislation initiated by the Congress, and signed by successive Presidents, is the basis for this rigid approach. I voted for that legislation. But when viewed in the context of Pakistan's and India's decision to test, I have to conclude that while our approach worked for many years, it is no longer working. It didn't stop them from testing, and it provides no incentive for India and Pakistan to take positive steps now.

To be sure, sanctions, when carefully calibrated, are a valuable policy tool. But I think it is clear that multilateral sanctions are more effective than unilateral sanctions. For example, the recent decision by the Group of Eight to delay indefinitely World Bank loans for India and Pakistan is more likely to produce results than unilateral U.S. action.

Given these defects in our policy, I believe we have no choice but to construct a new conceptual framework. Here are our options.

First, we could maintain the status quo. That is, we retain sanctions on India and Pakistan indefinitely, not recognize their nuclear status, and keep the fundamentals of our Asia policy unchanged. That would `keep the faith' on non-proliferation, but leave the underlying tensions in place and set the stage for the next, perhaps more dangerous, crisis.

A second approach that has been suggested is bolder: why not enlist India as a potential strategic ally against a `China threat?' But this runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. China does not show signs of becoming hostile, nor are china's interests necessarily in conflict with our own. China prizes peace, stability, and economic development above all else.

I suggest a third approach. First, we should abandon our one-size-fits-all non-proliferation policy that we have applied to South Asia. We need to make distinctions between India, Israel, and Pakistan on the one hand, and nations that flout international norms such as Iraq and Libya on the other. The former should not concern us as much as the latter.

We are better served by bringing India and Pakistan into non-proliferation arrangements than by simply expecting them to foreswear their nuclear programs. In practical terms, this means that Congress should provide the President with the flexibility to negotiate a package that would lift sanctions in exchange for restraint by India and Pakistan in the areas that matter most to us.

We should seek agreement on five items: Formal commitments, preferably through adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to refrain from further nuclear testing; pledges to enter negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty; Assurances that both countries will continue to refrain from spreading nuclear and missile
technology; verifiable commitments not to deploy nuclear weapons on missiles, submarines, or aircraft; and a resumption of comprehensive bilateral discussions between India and Pakistan aimed at reducing tensions.

Such a package would serve our twin objectives of repairing the damage to the global non-proliferation regime, while not indefinitely isolating one-fifth of humanity.

Second, we need to distinguish between the relative importance of India and Pakistan to our interests over the long-term. Pakistan has been a good friend in the past, and we should not forget that. Moreover, a policy that dismisses Pakistan's legitimate security needs is bound to fail.

In fact, I believe that when we eventually ease the recently-imposed sanctions on India and Pakistan, we should simultaneously waive the Pressler and Symington amendments, which restrict military and economic aid to Pakistan. The time has come to clear the decks in our relationship with Pakistan and end a policy which is perceived as discriminatory by Islamabad.

Nor should we overlook the important strategic role Pakistan could play as a secure transit route for the vast oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Basin, if, and this is a big if, peace can be secured in Afghanistan.

But American national interests in the new multipolar world dictate a different level of relations with India. Because of its growing economic and political weight, India will become a significant player in Asia and at the global level.

Already India has a middle class approaching 200 million people. If Indian governments make policy decisions that continue to unleash the latent potential of a talented population, then India will in time achieve the great power status to which it has long aspired.

Furthermore, if current trends hold, I believe that it is only natural for some form of rivalry to persist, if not intensify, between a growing India and China. Obviously, this would diminish security and threaten U.S. interests across Asia.

To prevent it, two things must be done. First, the Sino-Indian rivalry must be channeled into a healthy and constructive competition. Second, as both India and China achieve great power status, they will need to ease the anxieties of lesser powers.

To deal with this emerging regional picture we must move away from a focus on discrete bilateral relationships in Asia, and broaden our vision with a more integrated region-wide approach that regards South Asia as an integral part of Asia.

I propose a new framework that would give a `seat at the table' to all of the major players in Asia--India, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. The emphasis should not be so much on formal structures, but on substance. The goal of this new framework would be to promote greater consultation and transparency among the countries.

The two emerging powers in this group--India and China--should be encouraged to set an example of cooperation for the rest of Asia. Such a system would also help them to realize that along with great power status comes responsibility. They must convince smaller nations of their peaceful intentions; they must act to strengthen, not weaken, international norms; and they must be seen as supporting an international environment that promotes peace and prosperity for all.

The `Gujral doctrine' demonstrates that India has the potential to mature into a responsible great power. As espoused by the previous Indian Prime Minister, this doctrine called for India, as the dominant power in South Asia, to go more than halfway in easing the fears of its smaller neighbors. I hope that the new Indian government will not stray from this far-sighted policy adopted by its predecessor.

The United States will need to take the lead in setting this regional security mechanism into motion. It could begin today with the President picking up the phone and speaking to the leaders of India, Russia, and Japan about the insights he gained from his trip to China and making arrangements to go to India.

Regular consultation among the key Asian countries could go a long way toward dispelling anxieties and suspicions. It would give everyone a stake in maintaining stability. It would provide an incentive for regional powers to work toward the settlement of long-standing disputes such as those over the Sino-Indian border, the Kurile islands, the Korean peninsula, and the South China Sea.

Key countries could be encouraged to share information about their armaments and defense budgets. If the other side does not have information, it will assume the worst. This inevitably leads to decisions and potentially dangerous cycles of action and reaction that are predicated upon assumptions that may be false.

Let me conclude. Devising a new approach to South Asia will not be easy, especially considering that it is being done in response to actions we don't approve of--namely, the Pakistan and Indian nuclear tests. But we have no choice, because the status quo is not an option.

We must show India and Pakistan that while we condemn their tests, we understand their security concerns and are willing to deal with them. If we don't devise a new approach, tensions will grow and South Asia's endemic security problems will undermine our long-term interests. And one thing is clear: South Asian security is becoming inseparable from Asian security.

And, of course, Asia matters to the United States. Despite recent economic setbacks, Asia will continue to be the most dynamic region into the next century. Our economic links will continue to grow. The regional balance of power and security perceptions will also undergo dramatic changes. I believe that we will need to find new mechanisms to preserve our security interests.

An effort that begins today in enlisting the key Asian powers in advancing our common objectives of peace, stability, and prosperity is one that could pay dividends far into the next century. Now is the time to begin.

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