May 20, 1998



SUBJECT: India & China

I enclose a short paper written by Henry Sokolski and Tim Hoyt of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) on the steps the U.S. should take in the wake of India’s recent nuclear weapons tests. Sokolski is the executive director of NPEC and the former deputy for nonproliferation policy in the Bush Administration’s Pentagon.

After the Indian Tests: Sanctions for India & China
Henry Sokolski and Tim Hoyt

Now that India has tested thermonuclear weapons and demanded recognition as a nuclear weapons state, more than a few foreign policy pundits are arguing that nothing much can be done and that sanctions are a mistake. Yet, if past history with China, Iraq and North Korea teaches us anything, it is that American efforts to be pragmatic and selective about proliferation are simply a prescription for more trouble.

In fact, the challenge posed by India’s nuclear weapons program has just begun. India is in the process of developing a strategic missile capability. U.S. efforts should focus on stopping India from fielding the long-range land or submarine-based rocket systems currently in development. To head off what would be a quantum leap in India’s nuclear strike capabilities, the U.S. should announce now that it will inflict trade sanctions (including sanctions against the import of Indian textiles) in the event that India deploys these missile systems.

In the mean time, current financial sanctions against India should be applied rigorously. New Delhi officials claim they have considered all the ramifications of these sanctions, but as the rupee falls to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar and India’s credit rating totters, this appears questionable. To keep the pressure on, the President should prohibit U.S. commercial and investment banks from dealing with companies owned in part or whole by the Indian government. This will hurt India economically, but that is the point.

Such steps are necessary if U.S. sanctions are to be taken seriously not just by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) officials (who hold power by the slimmest of majorities), but also Pakistan, (which is demanding action against India to forestall its own testing), North Korea, (which is exploiting the crisis by threatening to restart its own nuclear program), and Iraq, (which announced this weekend that Iraqi nuclear scientists are now working with Indian scientists). U.S. industries trying to penetrate Indian markets, of course, will complain. But having their short-term interest subsidized by U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans hardly speaks to the long-term security interests of the United States and those of the region.

In addition, we should resist what is likely to be the Clinton Administration’s policy for dealing with India’s tests -- trading off sanctions for India’s signature to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). With large supercomputers (many courtesy of the U.S.) and a full set of nuclear testing benchmarks to conduct computer nuclear test simulations, New Delhi’s willingness to join up will have little or no impact on India’s nuclear capabilities. Equally important, cutting such a deal will only invite the world’s other near-nuclear nations to test as well. Instead of taking this course, the administration should let the sanctions sink in until the current government gives way to a fresh leadership more willing to work with Pakistan and to forswear the next strategic weapons step -- further missile deployment.

Meanwhile, the U.S. must end its lax efforts to stem both China’s strategic modernization program and its assistance to Pakistan’s missile and nuclear programs, which helped prompt India’s decision to test. Surely, no one in Southwest Asia (or, for that matter, anywhere else) is likely to take U.S. nonproliferation concerns seriously if Washington continues to turn a blind eye to the assistance it gives to China’s strategic programs.

The U.S. should, at a minimum, stop helping known Chinese proliferators by giving them U.S. military-related technology and by subsidizing the export of that technology with taxpayer-guaranteed loans. There should be no satellite and high-technology transfers to firms known by our intelligence agencies to have engaged in illicit proliferation activity in the past two years. And President Clinton should finally impose U.S. nonproliferation sanctions called for by U.S. law against Chinese firms helping Pakistan’s missile and nuclear programs. Indeed, if the White House is at all serious about stemming further proliferation in Southwest Asia, this, not further strategic technology cooperation with Beijing, should be the theme of any presidential trip to China.

Henry Sokolski is the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, D.C., and Tim Hoyt is a research associate at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.