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Biden Pushes End to India Sanctions

August 27, 2001 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joseph Biden says the sanctions imposed against India in May 1998 should be removed because they may be impeding nonproliferation efforts.

Biden, D-Del., in a letter to President Bush released Monday, wrote that he has felt for some time that positive inducements are needed to influence India rather than punitive measures which have proved ineffective.

``Today, the economic sanctions against India serve to stigmatize rather than stabilize,″ he said. If the sanctions are removed, Biden said, he is hopeful that ``India will respond with reciprocal acts of goodwill in nonproliferation and other arenas.″

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He noted that the law under which sanctions were applied gives the president the authority to waive them without the need for congressional consent. Any use of this authority should not be interpreted as a weakening of the American commitment to nonproliferation, he said.

The sanctions were imposed after India engaged in a series of nuclear tests in May 1998. After Pakistan responded with tests of its own, it was also the target of U.S. sanctions.

Asked about India policy, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said a review is under way and that no decisions have been made. Privately, however, officials have indicated that they are looking seriously at lifting sanctions against India.

Speaking in general terms, Boucher said the United States and India ``have been in the process of transforming our relationship. India is becoming more and more important to the United States as it assumes a larger role in world affairs and as its economy expands to meet its enormous potential.″

Boucher added that the improved U.S. relationship with India is not directed against Pakistan, India’s longtime rival.

``Pakistan is a friend of long standing,″ Boucher said. ``It’s an important regional and Islamic power, and we are committed to working through the difficult political, economic and social challenges with Pakistan.″

In his letter, Biden said he would want to discuss missile proliferation, from China to Pakistan, with Bush before recommending the lifting of sanctions on Pakistan.