American Diplomacy
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August 2000

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Warburg 2000 Conference

During a day-long conference at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, February 29, 2000, ten veteran diplomats and scholars discussed the difficult global security policy decisions facing the United States as the sole remaining superpower. The question at hand: whether to act alone, to tackle crises in collaboration with allies, or to work through the UN Security Council.

Organizers of the conference, held to commemorate Simmons' centennial anniversary and to honor Mrs. Joan M. Warburg, have kindly made the results of the discussions available to American Diplomacy readers.

Continuing its reporting on the subject conference (see this journal’s Spring 2000 issue), we present three more of the papers presented on that occasion, and we invite you to join in the discussion by sending us your comments and questions by email.
~ Ed.

What other Conference 2000 Speakers had to say:

(Spring 2000 issue)

Sir Kieran Prendergast , on U.S. and UN roles in collective security:
"In an era of increasing globalization and proliferating transnational problems, the relevance and utility of the United Nations can only grow. This is not a boast, but an acknowledgment that often there is no alternative."

Elizabeth Pond , on Europe's 20th Century transformation:
The cold war was not a freezer, but an incubator of European cooperation. . . . Europe is not and never will be a homogenized federation, but it is already far more than a confederation."

Prof. Erik Jensen, on the objectives of the Warburg 2000 Conference:
"As the sole remaining superpower, the U.S. is faced with difficult decisions when crises arise: whether to act alone; or to tackle them in collaboration with like-minded allies, for example, through NATO; or to work for collective security principally in the United Nations Security Council. Hence the conference title: Collective Security, Posse or Global Cop."

Amb. Denis McLean, on sharing responsibility in wars of nationalism and separatism:
"The U.S. has a fundamental role to play in helping to put together the capabilities to meet these types of emergency. But so too have other countries."

Amb. Frank Crigler, on U.S. interest in conflicts far from our shores:
"We cannot disengage from Africa because America’s own roots run too deep there and because we as a people are too deeply touched by the fate of Africans."


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“For many Pakistanis, their nuclear capacity has given them confidence that they can be more aggressive on Kashmir.”

by Harry G. Barnes, Jr.*

ET ME BEGIN WITH SOME personal recollections as a sort of scene setter. In the early 1980s, when I was getting ready to go to India, I made the rounds, as did any newly appointed ambassador, to talk to those who knew something about both U.S. interests and the challenges in the country concerned. One of the obligatory calls was on the head of the Policy Planning Staff in the State Department. Policy Planning was where, in principle, long range strategic thinking was done, as compared to the day-to-day preoccupations which absorbed the rest of the Department.

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Having talked about one thing and another I asked the director with which of his colleaguesI might talk further about the situation in India. My question seemed to have caught him by surprise, because he took a while to answer and then said that as a matter of fact he really didn’t have anyone focusing on India and that somehow “India must have fallen between the cracks.”

By the time I got to India a few weeks later, it was clear that at least one issue of potential strategic security importance had emerged from the cracks. That was the question of whether the United States would honor its commitment of two decades earlier to provide nuclear fuel for the power reactor located near Bombay at a place called Tarapur. The obligation was clear; the politics were much less so. Since the Tarapur agreement had been made, international concern over the risks of the spread of nuclear technology for weapons purposes had grown and led in 1968 to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) which neither India nor Pakistan has yet signed. (One needs to remember that in the early days of nuclear power there were such things talked of as peaceful nuclear explosions and how they might serve to promote economic development as labor saving devices for clearing the way for dams or canals.). India had tested a nuclear device in 1974 for what it called peaceful purposes That explosion intensified the concern in the United States and elsewhere about the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

The Indian government of the early ‘80s, led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was insisting that the United States live up to its treaty obligation to deliver fuel for Tarapur. Otherwise India would abrogate the agreement. That would mean the end of the safeguards regime to which Tarapur was subject, even though India was not a member of the NPT. The U.S. Government, fearful of the backlash from supplying the fuel even to a facility under safeguards, kept holding off. A solution was found in time through France’s being willing to replace the United States as the fuel supplier.

A further complicating factor in that period was the U.S. perception of India as being, if not exactly a satellite of the Soviet Union, at least strongly pro-Soviet. From a strategic standpoint, the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was still the dominant U.S. concern at that point in that part of Asia. India had not been critical of the Soviet move, but rather critical instead of U.S. efforts to assist Pakistan as “a front-line state.” This difference, as a matter of fact, was only the latest in a series of arguments going back to the early l950s in which India and the United States tended to be on opposite sides and Pakistan and the United States on the same side in regional security questions. The one major exception was the Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962 where the United States sided with India. But that exception did not last for many years.

To come to somewhat more recent times, the working assumption in the U.S. Government was that India, having demonstrated in 1974 that it could produce a nuclear explosive device, was probably continuing a research program. In principle, though, both countries were in favor of a nuclear-arms free world, and as recently as 1994 when then Prime Minister Rao came to Washington, he and President Clinton reaffirmed the importance of a comprehensive test ban treaty, that having been a long-standing Indian position since the days of Nehru. Yet in 1995, Rao ordered a test, but then scrapped the idea under U.S. pressure. When the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) negotiations were finally concluded inn 1996, India was one of the very few who opposed, this on the grounds that the treaty was discriminatory in favor of the five nuclear powers. In 1996 also the then-thirteen-day long Bhaharat Janata Party (BJP) government secretly ordered tests, but canceled the decision when it could not get a parliamentary vote of confidence. It was a new BJP government, in 1998, which again decided on testing and carried out the tests.

In the case of Pakistan, the U.S. role was more evident, because of the close relations to which I earlier referred. The event that precipitated the decision to start a nuclear weapons program was the 1971 war with India, which resulted in the establishment of the former East Pakistan as the independent country of Bangladesh. Then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto launched a secret nuclear weapons program that was continued under successor governments.

There were in the ‘80s increasing suspicions that Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons and the U.S. Congress attempted to put roadblocks in the way through the adoption of the Pressler Amendment, which forbade American military assistance unless the President could certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device and that military aid would make it less likely that Pakistan would try to obtain such a device. Despite continuing suspicions that Pakistan did indeed have it already, Presidential certifications were routinely drafted until almost the end of the Bush Administration. But it took the 1998 tests to provide visible confirmation for all to see.

NEXT: Why the nuclear tests?


American Diplomacy                Vol. V, No. 3                Summer 2000
Copyright © 2000 American Diplomacy Publishers, Durham NC

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