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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Congressman Benjamin Gilman's (R-NY) speech at the
Indian American Friendship Council on July 28, 1998


Ladies and gentleman, good evening. I want to thank President Reddy, my friend and constituent Jagdish Mistry and all the members of the Indian American Friendship Council for inviting me here this evening to speak to you about our Nation's relations with India. Your Indian American Friendship Council is well known for its important role in educating U.S. policy makers about the subtleties and nuances surrounding U.S.-Indian relations. Accordingly, it is an honor and a privilege to share thoughts with you this evening.

Last August, I led a Congressional Delegation to New Delhi to attend a special midnight session of Parliament to celebrate India's 50s' year of Independence.

In two weeks we will be celebrating India's 51st birthday. It is an especially important anniversary with India at a critical turning point in its role in the world and its relations with our own nation.

How U.S. policy makers respond to the changes in that region will have a critical impact upon India's stability and U.S. interests for years to come.

The greatest single problem threatening long-term stability in South Asia is the evolutionary struggle within the region between governments that respect the rule of law and democratic processes, and those that do not.

Democracies will always naturally conflict with closed forms of government. That is why India throughout its 51 years as an independent nation has never been able to fully live in peace. India is located in a tough neighborhood. To its East is Burma, which is ruled by a military junta. To its West is authoritarian Pakistan. And on its north is Tibet that is occupied by the totalitarian Beijing government.

China has been trying to keep India off balance by pressuring India from all sides. It sells nuclear and ballistic missile technology to Pakistan, it has sold over a billion dollars of arms to Burma and it has positioned a huge military force in Tibet.

How the State Department responds to this equation can either help to bring peace to the region or heighten the tension. Regrettably, the State Department has been fudging the facts to avoid sanctioning and confronting China.

In addition to China's mischief there are distressing reports on how U.S. assistance to communist China may have helped Beijing develop MIRV (multiple individual reentry vehicles technology. Speaker Gingrich has created a special Task Force to investigate these charges. If this proves to be true, China may now be able to put multiple warheads on a single missile that are capable of being targeted to different far off locations.

This transfer of highly sophisticated technology is a serious threat to our own national security. Imagine then what sort of danger it poses for India and how this technology transfer factored into India's recent decision to test, which then led to the Pakistani nuclear tests.

Another distressing outcome of the recent nuclear testing in South Asia is the State Department's portrayal of China as a responsible mediator in the crises. Just last month in Geneva, China was in charge of a Permanent Five (Russia, United Kingdom, China, France and the U.S.) meeting on the subject of the South Asian nuclear tests. The Chinese chairman of that meeting unhesitatingly blamed India for the problems.

Moreover, while the meeting was still underway, Beijing dispatched a shipload of hundreds of missiles off to Pakistan. With that in mind, how the State Department can consider China a neutral party to the issue of nuclear testing in South Asia stretches the imagination.

It is crucial to understand the issue of the recent nuclear tests in a larger context than j us a problem between India and Pakistan. The State Department must stop the absurd comparison of India to Pakistan. The two nations are light years apart militarily, economically and politically.

India is a huge democratic industrialized nation with a population and armed forces some four times the size of Pakistan. Pakistan is an authoritarian, agrarian country that depends almost entirely on China for its missile and nuclear forces.

While all of us have revulsion towards weapons of mass destruction, India's testing was, to a large degree, in response to its dangerous neighborhood. China occupies Tibet on India's northern border and has nuclear weapons there, Beijing supplies billions of arms to Burma's military junta on India's eastern border and assists authoritarian Pakistan with nuclear and ballistic technology on India's western border.

Moreover, China threatens democratic Taiwan and The Philippines and assists Libya, Iran and Iraq with highly advanced weapons technology, which also pose an enormous threat to Israel.

India's Defense Minister, George Fernandes, has said time and time again that the real source of instability in the region is China.

Regrettably, some U.S. foreign policy makers keep framing the issue of India's security needs in the familiar Cold War theories that pitted India against Pakistan.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is of great concern to all of us. It is an extremely serious matter that makes the world unsafe for our children and future generations. All of us feel the responsibility to do what we can to help curtail any worldwide buildup of weapons of mass destruction. We all dream of leaving the world a safer place for those who will inherit it from us.

However, international agreements by which the world and our nation keeps nuclear, ballistic, biological and chemical weapons under control have not worked out too well.

If the Clinton Administration truly wants our nation to be part of the solution rather than being a part of the problem, it must reconfigure its emphasis on trade in foreign policy and find greater room for the promotion of democracy and human rights. The President must stop ignoring China's dangerous weapons proliferation and the threat that they pose to India.

And the very last thing the Administration should be doing is helping to transfer U.S. missile technology to China ... a transfer that puts Americans, Indians, Israelis and the rest of the world at risk.

Trade is important but not at the cost of U.S. security and not at the cost of international peace, development and stability.

Stability in South Asia suffers when America appears to be weak and is not willing to take a strong stand in support of its own economic, moral and national security interests.

The whole South Asian region shuttered when President Clinton in China announced that the U.S. accepts China's "one China policy" with Taiwan. The U.S. has always acknowledged China's position but we never publicly accepted it. There is a huge difference between acknowledgment and acceptance. This now puts democratic Taiwan in an enormously weak position in negotiating with China about its future.

Our Nation should be engaged in building closer ties to India, to South Korea, Taiwan and other democracies in the region. While, it was gratifying to learn about the recent meetings in Frankfort between Prime Minister Vajpayee's Special Emissary Jaswant Singh and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, meetings at this high level should have been going on for many years prior to the recent nuclear testing. We should not be coming together only during times of crises. India and the U.S. should be natural allies. It boggles my mind that the State Department has been so slow to develop closer ties.

In conclusion, when the State Department and the President begins a serious effort to focus our foreign policy on supporting democracy and strengthening our ties with our natural allies, such as India, and less on trade at any cost, then stability and security will begin to take root in that region.

Only then will our Nation's interests be served and only then will India be able to play the significant role that awaits it in the 21st century.

Good luck and God bless.

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