DEVELOPMENTS IN SOUTH ASIA (House of Representatives - May 12, 1998)

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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, following up on the previous gentleman from American Samoa, this week's headlines have focused on India's nuclear tests at a below-ground location within India. Analysts have interpreted this action as an indication that India is moving from a policy of ambiguity about its nuclear capabilities, a policy that has essentially stood since India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, to more openly declaring that it has nuclear weapons.

Mr. Speaker, while I oppose nuclear testing by India or any other nation, I want to stress that this week's test should not derail the U.S.-India relationship, which has been growing closer and stronger over the past 5 or 6 years. Particularly in the areas of trade and investment, the United States and India are finding that we have many common interests.

In terms of our strategic relationship, this week's news demonstrates, if anything, the need for closer coordination between the United States and India, the world's two largest democracies, and more effective diplomacy in trying to improve stability and working towards a reduction in nuclear weapons arsenals.

Mr. Speaker, in light of this week's test, it is particularly important to remember the defense situation that India faces. India shares approximately a 1,000-mile border with China, a nuclear-armed Communist dictatorship that has already launched a border war against India and maintains a large force on India's borders. China maintains nuclear weapons in occupied Tibet, on India's borders, and also maintains a military presence in Burma, another neighbor of India.

China has been proven to be involved in the transfer of nuclear and missile technology to unstable regimes, including Pakistan, a country that has been involved in hostile actions against India for many years; and China has conducted some 45 underground nuclear tests over the years.

Mr. Speaker, I bring out these facts to help put India's action this week into perspective, to try to explain to my colleagues here and to the American people the background for India's decision to conduct these tests. I know that India's action has met with widespread criticism, including from our own administration, but India's decision to test a nuclear explosive device should be understood in the context of the huge threat posed by China. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I believe the United States should be taking the threat from China more seriously and doing much more to discourage and deter China's proliferation efforts.

Now that India has demonstrated its nuclear capability, I would urge India's government to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, following the other democratic nations in the nuclear club, including the United States, that have now discontinued testing. Having nuclear capability means that India has an even greater burden to ensure peace in its region and in the world.

I would urge President Clinton to wait before imposing sanctions, I am talking about the sanctions that have been discussed, particularly if India announces that it will not conduct any further tests. The implications of the sanctions are so broad that many of our own interests could be damaged, particularly in the area of trade and investment. A wide range of international financial institutions would also be prevented from working in India, potentially thwarting important development projects that will help improve the quality of life for India's people.

Since India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, it has maintained the strictest controls on transfers of nuclear technology. India's nuclear program is indigenous, and successive Indian governments have not been involved in the transfer or acquisition of nuclear technologies with other nations. I believe it is very important that this policy be maintained, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, again, although I oppose the nuclear tests, I believe that we must now work with India and the rest of the world community in enacting and enforcing an effective worldwide ban on nuclear testing, leading to the reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

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