May 22, 1998
The Ambassador of India, Mr. Naresh Chandra, has been meeting senior US Congressmen over the last few days to brief them regarding the recent underground nuclear tests conducted by India. He explained the circumstances and the security environment in its neighbourhood that necessitated the tests. In particular, he rebutted strongly the allegations that have been made in some quarters about India having indulged in deception and having misled the US. He also refuted the comment made by some analysts that the tests were carried out for domestic political compulsions - that all Governments in New Delhi since 1974 had steadfastly adhered to India's position that it will not give up its nuclear option, and there has always been a national consensus on this issue which still continues to be the case.
The Ambassador emphasised India's continuing commitment towards global nuclear disarmament, and reiterated India's offer to consider adhering to some of the undertakings in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and also to join the discussions in Geneva on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) in a constructive manner.
All the discussions have taken place in very cordial atmosphere. Many Congressmen expressed disappointment and said that it had put a burden on them in their efforts to work for better relations between India and US. They said that the US policy on non-proliferation was widely supported and that nothing should be done that fuels an arms' race. Starting from this position, all the Congressmen were good enough to consider the additional facts and considerations put up to them. After the exchanges practically all of them showed that there was need to continue the dialogue and improve understanding because there was a lot of mis-information going about and many have jumped to hasty conclusions. There was a large area of understanding of India's security needs and growing appreciation of India's case even though a lot more work would be required to bring about the necessary level of understanding in the US Congress. Some Congressmen also expressed the view that given India's tough neighbourhood, it was difficult for India to give up the nuclear option. What was hopeful was the offer made by the various Congressmen to devote time to this important issue and ensure that the present situation was viewed in proper perspective based on true facts and without getting deflected by sensational press reports and motivated propaganda from some quarters. There was also unanimity that the dialogue between US and India should continue and given the goodwill that still exists it should be possible to resolve differences and improve the atmosphere, and review the need for sanctions. The Congressmen were confident that very soon the warm and fruitful relationship which had been growing in recent years would overcome this temporary setback and there would be more cooperation for resolving regional and global issues through closer interaction among the two largest democracies.
Those who the Ambassador met were House International Relations Committee Chairman, Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Chairman of Asia-Pacific Subcommittee, Doug Bereuter (R-NE), Chairman of International Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Sonny Callahan (R-AL), Chairman of Africa Subcommittee and Member of the House International Relations Committee, Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of Crimes Subcommittee and Co-Chairman of Caucus on Indian-Americans and India Bill McCollum (R-FL), Chairman of Republican Policy Committee, Jim Greenwood (R-PA), Chairman of Caucus on Indian-Americans and India, Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member, Asia-Pacific Subcommittee, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Ranking Member, Western Hemisphere Subcommittee and House International Relations Subcommittee, Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Member, House International Relations Committee, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ranking Member, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), Leading Member of the Black Caucus.
In addition, Mr. T.P. Sreenivasan, the Deputy Chief of Mission, also met Congresswoman Eva Clayton (D-NC), Ranking Member of Agriculture Committee, Congressman Tom Campbell (R-CA), Member of International Relations Committee and Congressman David Price (R-NC), Member of Appropriations Committee for similar discussions.