Exercising waiver authority granted by Congress in 1999, on September 22 President George W. Bush lifted sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan for their 1998 nuclear tests. The president also removed other sanctions related to Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons.
The decision to lift sanctions on Pakistan came in large part due to the cooperation Washington received from Islamabad after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. At a September 24 press briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “We intend to support those who support us. We intend to work with those governments that work with us in this fight [against terrorism].”
Boucher also said that removing the sanctions is “an important step forward in being able to pursue our goals with Pakistan, to be able to support Pakistan, and to cooperate more easily with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.” He added that this “allows us to do some things very quickly and very immediately to support Pakistan.”
The nuclear sanctions on Pakistan, some of which date back as far as 1979, were originally intended to prevent the further development and testing of nuclear weapons. After the 1998 nuclear tests, the Clinton administration tried to use those sanctions and the test-related sanctions to pressure India and Pakistan to restrain their nuclear weapons activities.
The nuclear sanctions barred all U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan, and their waiver would have allowed nearly all of this aid to proceed. However, other sanctions imposed after the October 1999 military takeover of Pakistan’s democratically elected government prohibit Washington from providing most of this assistance. In addition, other sanctions imposed for the receipt of Chinese missile components do not allow certain Pakistani entities to receive U.S. missile and space assistance.
However, the coup sanctions do not bar U.S. commercial military sales of spare parts or U.S. support of applications for loans from international financial institutions such as the World Bank. As a result, Washington can now resume these activities, both of which are important to Islamabad. According to a State Department official, the ban on spare-parts sales has had “a strong impact” on Pakistan’s military capabilities.
Removing the coup sanctions would require a presidential certification that democracy has been restored, something Bush cannot provide at this time, or the passage of congressional legislation authorizing a waiver of the sanctions. According to a House aide, there would be little resistance in Congress to passing such legislation. The aide noted that, since the terrorist attacks, Congress’s attitude has been “to give the administration what it asks for.”
Sanctions on India
Administration officials had acknowledged for several weeks that Bush was preparing to remove sanctions on India. But the question of how and whether to also lift sanctions on Pakistan delayed action because the administration apparently preferred to remove sanctions on both countries simultaneously. Once the terrorist attacks expedited a decision on lifting sanctions on Pakistan, the administration was finally able to announce the removal of sanctions on India.
The lifting of the 1998 nuclear-test sanctions will allow U.S. economic and military assistance to India to go forward. Most importantly, Washington can support Indian applications for international financial institution loans. India is the largest single borrower from the World Bank.
In a September 23 interview with the Press Trust of India, Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha welcomed the sanctions’ waiver but said, “As far as the Indian economy itself was concerned, except for certain defense supplies, sanctions had no meaning.”
Sanctions Waived by President Bush September 22, 2001
Sanctions Still in Force on Pakistan