Nuclear Proliferation: Darkest Cloud over South Asia? South Asia Could Be the Next Korea

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Nuclear Proliferation: Darkest Cloud Over South Asia? South Asia Could Be the Next Korea

By Sen. Larry Pressler

The catalyst for much of what currently is happening on the Korean Peninsula was a Clinton administration policy that sent disastrously mixed signals to the North Korean government. North Korea postured. The administration waffled. North Korea was emboldened as officials in Pyongyang came to believe the U.S. was not serious about preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in that part of the world. As a result, today we have an extremely unstable situation that even the world community may not be able to contain.

What does this have to do with security in South Asia? Plenty. A similar--indeed a much more serious--scenario could develop in that part of the world if the Clinton administration is allowed the "one-time" exemption to the Pressler Amendment it has requested. To properly comprehend this point, one needs to understand the history of the law limiting foreign assistance to Pakistan.

In 1985, the so-called Pressler Amendment became law. Under the terms of this law, Pakistan is not eligible to purchase American arms or receive most other foreign assistance unless the president can make a yearly certification that nation does not possess a nuclear explosive device.

At the time, Pakistani officials embraced the concept saying, "We are not developing a nuclear device; we support this amendment." This was due in large measure to the fact that during this same time frame other members of the Senate were proposing legislation to cut off aid immediately under the presumption that Pakistan already had a nuclear weapon. The Pressler Amendment provided a compromise.

From 1985 to 1990, the president was able to certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device. However, in 1990 President Bush was unable to make the certification. As a result, some $600 million per year in American aid to Pakistan has been cut off. Among other things, this has meant a number of F-16 fighter-bombers--bought and paid for by the Pakistanis--became undeliverable.

Last fall, the Clinton administration announced it would seek a repeal of the Pressler Amendment. After several senators--from both political parties--protested, the administration with-drew the proposal. Recently, the administration presented a new plan. It now proposes to deliver (at least) the F-16s to Pakistan in exchange for an agreement from that country to cap its nuclear weapons arsenal.

Probably never before in history has a country sought to promise the delivery of 20 to 40 aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons to a country that has nuclear weapons and say it is doing so in the interest of nuclear non-proliferation. The administration cannot explain its reasoning. The best it can do is to argue the planes would not have the mounts necessary to carry a nuclear weapon. The truth is, such mounts are not difficult to make. Where is the logic?

Unfortunately, there are many problems with the administration's proposal far more serious than a lack of logic. For instance, there is the effect such a move would have on diplomatic efforts between India and Pakistan. A visitor to South Asia cannot come away without the clear impression that tensions between the two are higher than they have been in a number of years.

India blames Pakistan for a series of terrorist attacks in India, including the bombing of the Bombay Stock Exchange. Pakistan accuses India of a campaign of systemized repression against the Muslim population of Kashmir. …