By Arthur G. Rubinoff

Source: Asian Affairs: An American Review, Spring2001, Vol. 28 Issue 1, p37, 24p.

American attitudes toward India tend to be based on ignorance and, as a result, American policy toward that country is often one of neglect. Anglo-American concerns as well as U.S.-Soviet competition and Indo-Pakistani rivalry have complicated Washington's bilateral ties with New Delhi. Historically, there has been a basic congruence between the policies of the executive and legislative branches toward India, although congressional hostility has exceeded that of the executive branch. As Norman Palmer observes, members of Congress, whether consciously or not, have often given offense to India and damaged bilateral relations by their outspoken criticisms of India's leaders, policies, and ways of life, particularly during debates on foreign assistance and nuclear issues.(n1) In this article I examine changing American attitudes and policies toward India and the role that the U.S. Congress has played in the relationship between the two countries. James A. Robinson's contention that the function of Congress is primarily to legitimate or amend presidential decisions accurately characterizes the process by which Washington has formulated its foreign policy toward New Delhi.(n2)

At the end of the Cold War it appeared for the first time that bilateral relations, freed from their historic baggage, would flourish. After the winding down of the Afghanistan War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, President George Bush refused to certify that Pakistan was not engaged in developing nuclear weapons, and U.S. aid to Pakistan was suspended. But American beliefs about India were deep-rooted--especially among legislators--and attitudes were slow to adjust to changing international circumstances. Hostility toward India lingered on Capitol Hill as late as 1995, when the Brown Amendment was passed, because of India's relationship with Russia--even though Moscow was no longer regarded as a threat to the United States. However, the growing importance of Indian Americans in U.S. politics, together with perceived economic opportunities for U.S. businesses, brought a fundamental change in congressional attitudes and public policy toward New Delhi, despite the controversy created by India's nuclear tests in 1998. For the first time, legislators organized to play a more constructive role in the formulation of bilateral relations. In particular, members of the House of Representatives concluded that increased attention to the Indian subcontinent could bring benefits in the American political system. That realization had two immediate results: It prompted greater congressional interest in South Asia, and it led to a dramatic shift in congressional sympathies.(n3)

The Residual Nature of Relations with South Asia

The United States has neglected India in comparison with other areas of the world, notwithstanding its growing economic, political, and strategic importance. In both the executive and legislative branches, South Asia has a low priority. American interests have been seen as limited in a region from which few U.S. citizens originate, a region that has attracted little U.S. overseas investment and is associated with countless unsolvable problems. Until 1991 the State Department, oriented toward Europe, resisted the creation of separate bureau for the region and, instead, included South Asia with the Near East. As a result, relations with India were handled by a deputy assistant secretary four levels removed from the secretary of state.

The legislative scene is more diffuse. The post-Vietnam revolt against the "imperial presidency" and the congressional seniority system produced an atomization of power and a vacuum on Capitol Hill. By 1983 the House of Representatives had twenty-six standing and select committees, almost all with at least one subcommittee active in foreign policy. The proliferation of congressional committees, which created new opportunities for legislative involvement in the conduct of international affairs, also created problems of coordination and jurisdiction. On the one hand, the state of anarchy has enabled the executive branch to find important allies on Capitol Hill. On the other hand, because congressional committees are more numerous, key players can no longer effectively maneuver legislative consensus or reliably interpret congressional views to the executive branch. Of particular note is the decline of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which historically managed the legislative process. At one time presidential contenders vied for a seat on the committee, but by 1981 it had become the preserve of freshman senators. Under the leadership of its longtime chairman J. William Fulbright (D-Ark., 1959-75), the committee concerned itself primarily with U.S.-Soviet issues and the Vietnam conflict, leaving other responsibilities--including relations with South Asia--to subcommittee chairmen who showed an interest and desired a platform. Hence, in the Senate, only the Subcommittee on Refugees of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), held heatings on the Bangladesh crisis of 1971-72. Because the interest of staff also plays a role in what issues any congressional committee considers, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was more concerned with South Asia under the chairmanships of Frank Church (D-Idaho, 1977-81), Richard Lugar (R-Ind., 1985-87), and Claiborne Pell (D-R.I., 1987-95) than it had been under Fulbright and John Sparkman (D-Ala., 1975-77). However, interest has not always translated into influence.

As the importance of the Foreign Relations Committee declined, the partisanship of its members increased. Its operations have become virtually immobilized: Diplomatic appointments are delayed, and negotiations on arms control and the international criminal court are stymied. Senators who do not prevail at the subcommittee or committee levels complicate matters by ignoring the committee process and proposing amendments from the floor. These developments have contributed to the transfer of legislative authority to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

After a major reorganization of its subcommittees in 1970, the House treated South Asia in a typically residual fashion, thereby reducing both continuity and expertise in that chamber. At times South Asia has been paired with the Near East, in the manner of the State Department, as the domain of a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where it is overshadowed by Arab-Israeli matters. At other times it has been coupled with the Asia-Pacific region and consequently dwarfed by concerns such as the Vietnam War and bilateral relations with China and Japan. Under the chairmanship of Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y., 1981-93), committee interest in South Asian issues reached an all-time high because Solarz was a constructive influence in U.S.-India relations. However, rivalry between the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and the full Foreign Affairs Committee has often been intense, a condition that contributes to legislative stalemate.

As recently as the mid-1980s, only about 5 percent of the members of Congress had an interest in South Asia.(n4) Legislative activity tends to manifest in clusters of related issues, such as human rights and nuclear proliferation. Because no significant segment of the American population originated from South Asia, congressional concern about the region was not constant, and members had great discretion in their activities. As a result, marginal people became involved in the foreign policy process for South Asia, as often happens with regard to matters peripheral to the national interest. Hence "India bashers" such as Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and Robert Dornan (R-Calif.) have used the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees as platforms to criticize New Delhi with impunity.(n5) To counter their activities, improve bilateral relations, and fill the vacuum left by Stephen Solarz's departure from Congress, the bipartisan Caucus of India and Indian-Americans was formed by nearly fifty members of the House in February 1993. One of the few congressional organizations dedicated to promoting relations with a single country, it was co-chaired by Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), whose district had a significant Indian population, and Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), who was critical of Pakistan's record on narcotics and terrorism. Pallone was accused of using the organization for personal aggrandizement and was deposed by Gary Ackerman (D.-N.Y.) in October 1998.(n6) Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) succeeded Ackerman two years later.

As Richard Fenno suggests--and as examples concerning South Asia confirm--congressional activities often occur in committee during the foreign aid appropriations process.(n7) Because of the pressures of the budgetary process, the role of the authorization committees (which make policy) has been usurped by the appropriations committees (which dispense funds) in both chambers. In the 1980s foreign assistance bills were virtually replaced by continuing resolutions and supplemental appropriations as the principal mechanisms for the making of legislative foreign policy. Under such circumstances, policy is created without any structural or long-term direction.(n8) As a rule, the more liberal, internationalist members of Congress gravitate toward the foreign-policy authorization committees; conservatives concerned about limiting expenditures gravitate toward the appropriations committees. Moreover, appropriations committee chairmen can engage in countless tradeoffs on various issues to gain support, but authorization chairmen have less to offer their members.(n9) Legislators on the two committees do not work with each other individually or along party lines.(n10) In general, the authorization committees have shown a more favorable disposition toward India than have the appropriation committees. This evolution places power in the hands of legislators unsympathetic to New Delhi.

Congressional Perceptions of India

Before World War II, American contact with India (with the exception of missionary activity) was nominal, and political and economic relations between the two countries were sporadic. As Harold Isaacs stated in a classic study, American "interaction with India occurs less dramatically, along a narrower arc, [and] in a smaller compass of awareness and interest" because the United States has much less shared history with that country than with China or Japan.(n11) The relative lack of contact has been responsible for uninformed perceptions. Public opinion surveys have consistently documented that most Americans have misconceptions and negative feelings about India and Indians.(n12) Images of India in the United States are highly negative and are developed and reinforced by school textbooks, the media, and academic writings that depict it as a backward society. The Asia Society, in a review of some three hundred school textbooks, found that the presentation of India was the most negative among all Asian countries.(n13) According to a State Department analysis, American attitudes about India, more than about any other place, focus on disease, death, and illiteracy.(n14)

American legislators and decision makers are subject to the same impressions as the general public. In the view of John Melior, U.S. policy is the product of similar stereotypes, in which India is portrayed "as poverty-stricken and helpless."(n15) Certainly during the 1971 Bangladesh crisis, President Richard Nixon's tilt toward Pakistan "was influenced by his long-standing dislike for India and the Indians."(n16) A similar sentiment is attributed to President Lyndon Johnson, who "regarded Indians as weak and indecisive."(n17) A high-ranking former official of AID (Agency for International Development) who had been posted in New Delhi described "a majority" of key players in the White House, the State Department, and Congress as ab initio, anti-Indian.(n18)

As Robert Dahl determined, the American Congress is more likely to be representative of public attitudes than is the executive branch. He found that legislative attitudes tend to be "persistent, consistent and shared."(n19) Like other Americans, most members of Congress get their news and impressions from the media. Their information about India is neither adequate nor accurate. Despite having served as ambassador to New Delhi, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), perhaps the most knowledgeable legislator of his time on the subject, once remarked, "What does [India] export but communicable diseases?"(n20) One of the most informed and thoughtful members of Congress, Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), a chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia and later chairman of the full committee, was moved to exclaim, in response to testimony describing India, "I don't know that I have ever heard such a long list of difficulties, ills and problems and so little hope."(n21)

The complaint has arisen that although India has one of the largest populations, most powerful military establishments, and most dynamic economies in the world, the United States does not take it seriously.(n22) Myron Weiner cogently explained why Americans accord South Asia such low priority:

Unlike the Middle East, Indonesia or Nigeria, [South Asia] has no resources vital to the American economy. Unlike Latin America it is not a region with substantial American private investment. Its geo-political position raises no fundamental problems for American security .... Unlike China .... India has no deep cultural or historic ties with the United States, and unlike the countries of Western Europe, Israel and Greece, no significant segment of the American population originates from nor has an enduring association with the region. In short, none of the elements exist that attract the daily concerns of the president, Congress, the press, or the foreign policy publics.(n23)

Sulochana Raghavan Glazer and Nathan Glazer discovered that American perceptions--including indifference, hostility, resentment, and disdain--have had more effect than security interests in shaping U.S. policy toward South Asia.(n24) The most compelling factor in Washington's bilateral relations with New Delhi is the belief that India was on the wrong side of the two most important conflicts of the past century: World War II and the Cold War. Although millions of Indian soldiers served in the British army, the Indian National Congress refused to support the war against the Axis powers as long as London would not promise independence. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was viewed as "clearly pro-Russian," and Indian nonalignment was seen as "a major obstacle to US efforts to rally and unite the free nations of Asia in the struggle against Soviet world domination."(n25) Although there is little institutional memory in Washington, those perceptions have remained consistent in the State Department and on Capitol Hill.(n26)

U.S.-India relations have rarely stayed on an even keel but tend instead to oscillate between high and low points. The high points were U.S. support for India during its 1962 border war with China--which coincided with the Cuban missile crisis--and U.S. relief programs that extended from the early 1950s into the next decade. The low points have been more numerous: differences that emerged during the Korean War, India's failure to sign the Japanese peace treaty, the inclusion of Pakistan in the American alliance system in 1954-55, the attempt by the United States to prevent India from using force in Goa in 1961, the U.S. decision to send the carrier Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal in 1971, and Indian resentment over the accrual of rupee currencies by the United States. Economic and nuclear issues are more recent irritants. The situation of the Sikhs in the Punjab and the ensuing civil war in Kashmir added a human rights dimension to bilateral relations in the 1980s.

Foreign Assistance

The annual congressional debates on foreign aid appropriations have consistently elicited a spate of criticism directed at India, whose policies are seen as contrary to American interests. Although a wheat loan agreement was signed in 1951, followed by a $53 million package of direct assistance, the bitter comments made in the course of prolonged debates "counteracted the goodwill that American aid in time of crisis would have otherwise produced."(n27) The 1951 debates were particularly acrimonious. Many legislators were infuriated by India's opposition to a UN General Assembly resolution on 1 February 1951 that branded China as the aggressor in Korea. Among those who expressed reservations about providing aid to a country that was perceived as voting against American interests was Senator Tom Connolly (D-Tex.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.(n28) In response to a special message from President Truman recommending emergency assistance for India, a bipartisan group of forty senators and representatives introduced legislation calling for the immediate dispatch of one million tons of American surplus wheat and authorizing the eventual shipment of another million tons. Although the House Foreign Affairs Committee reported the bill favorably, conservatives on the Rules Committee blocked the measure until it was rewritten in the form of a loan. Finally, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported a bill that was partly a loan and partly a grant.(n29) New Delhi's ties to China during the Korean War led many on Capitol Hill to deem India unworthy of American economic assistance. William Knowland (R-Calif.), who later became majority leader, accused India of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."(n30) The Battle Act of 1953, which barred American aid to any country that traded in strategic goods with Communist China, targeted India and became a source of acrimony in bilateral relations.(n31)

Bilateral rancor resurfaced during the stewardship of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (1953-59). His bringing Pakistan into the American alliance system was vehemently opposed by Senator Fulbright, who declared the decision to supply arms to Pakistan to be "an unfortunate mistake" that could cause the loss of an alienated India to communism.(n32) Even supporters of Pakistan, such as H. Alexander Smith (R-N.J.), feared that arming Pakistan would cause an irreparable rupture of relations with New Delhi. Indian skepticism about American anti-imperialism resurfaced after Washington's critical reaction to the Indian invasion of Goa in December 1961. To express its displeasure the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attempted, over the objections of President Kennedy, to cut the 1962 foreign aid appropriation to India by 25 percent.(n33)

In 1963 Congressional conservatives, who had been hostile toward India, reneged on a $500 million public sector steel plant at Bokaro, in the state of Bihar, that was to be a showcase of Western aid. A seven-volume report--produced at a cost of $686,000 by a U.S. Steel team for AID--had the effect of providing an opportunity for congressional opponents of the Bokaro endeavor to embarrass the Kennedy administration. In August 1963 the House attached a provision to its foreign aid authorization bill forbidding any allocation of more than $100 million to a public sector project without specific congressional authorization.(n34) The reluctance of the U.S. Congress to build a "socialist" steel mill with capitalist dollars enabled the Soviet Union--as in the case of the Aswan Dam in Egypt--to fill the breach. The American decision on Bokaro led India to cancel an agreement to share radio transmitters with Voice of America.

Despite setbacks such as these, U.S. relations with India improved throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s as Sino-Indian relations deteriorated. This was the period of the greatest U.S. involvement and interest in South Asia. Both humanitarian and security concerns worked to India's advantage. In the view of the State Department, "South Asia became a testing ground for the free world. In this area will be determined whether nations can surmount tremendous economic and social problems, can achieve far-reaching changes in their entire pattern of life without resorting to the totalitarian system of communism."(n35) From 1954 to 1964 American aid to India totaled $10 billion, and relations between New Delhi and Washington approached the point of alliance during the Sino-Indian Border War. A bipartisan coalition supporting enhanced relations, which included presidential aspirant John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.), was forged by Senator John Sherman Cooper (R-Ky.), a former ambassador to India. The improvement of U.S.-India relations caused a deterioration of the U.S.-Pakistan connection.

In some respects, the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, which resulted in the first of four arms embargoes to the region, was a turning point in Washington's dealings with the subcontinent. For the first time, regional considerations began to prevail over a Cold War calculus. Yet the regional calculation worked against India, as the American tilt toward Pakistan in 1971 and the second arms embargo of the region during the Bangladesh war of independence were seen in Congress as a tilt toward China.(n36)

In the 1960s and 1970s, legislators such as Otto Passman (D-La.) and Clarence Long (D-Md.) ensured that the appropriations subcommittees that they chaired only grudgingly provided aid to a country that seldom agreed with American positions on global issues. After the Vietnam War, Congress suffered from "foreign aid fatigue." Liberals, such as Representative Jonathan Bingham (D-N.Y.), began making arguments that had formerly been advanced by conservatives, such as Owen Brewster (R-Maine). They held that billions of dollars in American assistance to India had resulted in resentment rather than benefits and had caused a corresponding reduction in domestic programs. Every consideration of an AID authorization became an occasion for Congress to demonstrate its displeasure with New Delhi's ingratitude for American assistance. Pakistan was portrayed as a frontline state with 2.5 million refugees, India as one of the "persistently anti-United States members" of the UN, endorsing Soviet positions on Cuba, Kampuchea, Nicaragua, and especially Afghanistan. The conservative Representative William Broomfield (R-Mich.), a ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a critic of India for a generation, succeeded by a vote of 18-14 in pushing through an amendment that cut developmental assistance to New Delhi from $50 million to $35 million in 1987. Several Democrats, resentful of India's support of the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul, joined Republicans to punish India for its stand on the Afghan issue. Since Broomfield's retirement in 1993, Representative William Goodling (R-Pa.) has introduced legislation every year that would deny assistance to countries that refuse to support American positions in the UN General Assembly. In 1992 Representative Dan Burton won approval in the House for a bill to eliminate aid to India, but it never became law.

In any event, since the 1970s American interests in South Asia have been perceived as limited.(n37) The region has attracted less than 1 per cent of U.S. overseas investment, although it suffers from "seemingly unsolvable problems."(n38) Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan best described the American attitude as one of "benign neglect." As ambassador to India in the mid-1970s, Moynihan reduced the size of the U.S. diplomatic establishment there, negotiated an agreement to forgive the significant sums that India owed the United States in payment for foodstuffs, and presided over American disengagement in the region. India incurred the wrath of members of Congress over issues such as the detonation of a nuclear device in May 1974 and the suppression of human rights during Mrs. Gandhi's Emergency, which ran from June 1975 through March 1977.(n39) U.S. concern about the human rights of the Sikhs in the 1980s was extended to include Muslim Kashmiris in the next decade. Both liberals and conservatives, for different reasons, have been critical of the way India has dealt with secessionist movements. Accusations of persecution of Christians since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 1998 have concerned many in Congress, especially members of the Black Caucus. In recent years Representative Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) has become the leading critic of New Delhi on Capitol Hill.

Because of its Cold War alliances with the United States, Pakistan was free from the impediments that marked U.S.-India relations, such as India's part in nuclear proliferation and its hostility toward Israel. Influential senators such as Fulbright and Richard Russell (D-Ga.) regarded Pakistan as a reliable ally that deserved special consideration.(n40) As a result, the Indian government felt that the United States applied a double standard in the subcontinent.

Nuclear Issues

In the 1980s many of India's friends in Congress felt compelled to advance the cause of nuclear nonproliferation at the expense of bilateral ties with New Delhi. Ever since India's 1974 detonation, its possession of nuclear weapons has been the dominant issue in relations with the United States. South Asia has become a testing ground of the global aspects of nonproliferation.(n41) The United States has threatened to cut off foreign aid and reliable supplies of nuclear materials if international safeguards are violated. India argues that the United States has not applied similar standards to China and Israel. Successive U.S. administrations have offered incentives to India; Congress imposes the sanctions.(n42) In 1974 the Ford administration withheld fuel shipments to the Tarapur nuclear plant until it could determine that American materials had not been used in the Indian detonation. In a move that embarrassed the administration, Congress instructed the U.S. representative to the International Development Agency to refrain from voting for loans to countries that had exploded nuclear weapons but had not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty--a provision that applied exclusively to India. When Prime Minister Morarji Desai, of the short-lived Janata government, promised that India would not develop nuclear weapons or conduct further tests, Congress repealed the prohibition, and aid to India resumed.

In the early years of the Carter presidency, concern about nuclear proliferation peaked both in the executive branch and on Capitol Hill. Congress passed legislation in 1976 stipulating that countries that did not have nuclear weapons but imported material to develop bombs and refused to put their nuclear installations under international safeguards were not entitled to American assistance. The administration refused to sell 110 A-7 attack aircraft to Pakistan and encouraged the French to cancel the sale of a nuclear reprocessing system to Pakistan. Congress passed the Symington and Glenn Amendments, sections 669 and 670 of the Foreign Assistance Acts of 1976 and 1977, which prohibited aid or arms sales to countries that delivered or received nuclear enrichment equipment or technology and did not accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. As a result of evidence that Pakistan--which had just undergone a military coup--was engaged in such activities, the United States terminated assistance to that country for the third time in April 1979.

The climate in Washington changed later that year with the Iran hostage episode and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Global security issues once more overrode regional considerations. Washington turned a blind eye to Islamabad's clandestine development of nuclear weapons because it needed Pakistan's assistance to supply the Afghan guerillas. A decision to sell F-16 planes to Pakistan was viewed by New Delhi as providing its rival with a potential nuclear delivery system. In the meantime, President Carter, believing that a 1963 American commitment was at stake, approved export licenses for two fuel shipments and spare parts for India's Tarapur reactor--notwithstanding a claim by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that India had not met the criteria set forth by the 1978 Nuclear Nonproliferation Act. For members of Congress, that decision pitted their commitment to nonproliferation against their sense of the importance of U.S. relations with India. At the time, opponents to nuclear proliferation were stronger in the House, which rejected Carter's decision. The Senate, however, sustained the president's decision by a narrow vote of 48-46. In 1982 the Reagan administration helped negotiate an end to the Tarapur dispute by getting the French to assume the obligation to supply fuel. A year later, Secretary of State George Shultz promised that the United States would be the supplier of last resort. A Senate effort to overturn Shultz's commitment was thwarted in conference by Representative Solarz, who also weakened an amendment by Senator Rudolph Boschwitz (R.-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, that would have prohibited the sale of nuclear material to India and South Africa.

Since 1981 Pakistan has become the target of a dwindling number of opponents to nuclear proliferation, as the Indian program was described as "dormant." That year, to permit the approval of a $3.2-billion aid package for Islamabad, the Reagan administration proposed weakening the 1976 Symington Amendment, which gave Congress the authority to suspend foreign aid or arms sales to countries that receive nuclear enrichment equipment or technology and do not accept IAEA safeguards. The proposal was described as a way of enabling Pakistan to meet its security needs with conventional weapons and thus of obviating the need for it to embark on a nuclear weapons program. Congress declined to weaken the Symington Amendment at that time but instead granted Pakistan a six-year exemption in the interest of national security. President Reagan used his authority under public law 97-113 (signed in December 1981) to waive the application of the Symington Amendment in the case of Pakistan as long as Soviet forces were stationed in Afghanistan.

After an incident in which a Pakistani citizen was arrested in Houston for attempting to smuggle electronic switches that trigger nuclear bombs, Congress in 1985 passed the Pressler Amendment (Section 620E of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961), requiring annual presidential certification that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device. The amendment stipulated that American assistance to Pakistan would immediately be cut off if the president found that Pakistan had attempted to illegally acquire American material for making nuclear weapons. When press reports, including claims by Pakistani scientists and officials, and independent evidence indicated that Islamabad's bomb was near completion, some members of Congress, including John Glenn, chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, attempted to terminate the administration's six-year, $4.02 billion Pakistani aid package. Working through a Senate appropriations subcommittee that was dominated by its chair, Robert Kasten (R-Wis.), and his predecessor, Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), lobbyists for the Pakistani embassy succeeded in cutting off all aid to India until foreign assistance to Islamabad was restored. The ability of Pakistan to induce Congress temporarily to cut off aid to India in 1987, when its own funding was in jeopardy for embarking on a nuclear weapons program, was testimony to the strength of its influence on Capitol Hill and New Delhi's lack of influence.(n43) Knowledge of and concern about India in the U.S. Congress had declined despite that country's growing economic and strategic importance. Pakistan's assistance to the Afghan rebels overrode congressional concern about its clandestine nuclear activities.

However, the end of the Cold War and the winding down of the conflict in Afghanistan brought a dramatic deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan ties and a corresponding improvement in U.S.-India relations, which made possible the transfer of previously embargoed technologies. In October 1990 President George Bush refused to certify that Pakistan did "not possess a nuclear explosive device." As a result, the United States suspended aid to Pakistan and also prohibited arms transfers and technology transfers to Pakistan if it were to develop a nuclear weapons capability. On restoration, future aid to Islamabad was to be cut by more than half, from $564 to $208 million a year. As a stern warning to Pakistan at the behest of Senator Glenn, Congress inserted the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1994 into the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (P.L. 103-236), which called for mandatory presidential sanctions against any country that conducted nuclear tests.(n44)

In the face of a foreign exchange crisis after the Gulf War, the Congress Party government, headed by Prime Minister Narashima Rao, which assumed office in June 1991, abandoned that party's reliance on the discredited Nehruvian economic model and a foreign policy that reflected hostility toward the United States. Finance Minister Manmohan Singh recognized that substantial American investment and massive assistance from aid consortiums, such as the International Monetary Fund, were critical to the success of the Congress Party government's new economic policy. Indian politicians from all noncommunist parties felt that a consensus for a positive relationship with the United States had been established. For the first time, a strong pro-U.S. lobby emerged in the Indian parliament. However, the policies of the new Clinton administration disappointed and bewildered Washington's supporters in India.

The Campaign to Repeal the Pressler Amendment

It was anticipated that the Clinton administration, which had pledged to support democratic regimes and to encourage American investment abroad, would build on the foundation established by its predecessor and further improve bilateral ties. As one of the few established democracies in Asia and as the second most populous country in the world, India thought it was a candidate for positive attention from Washington. But other elements of the Clinton agenda--such as stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and promoting human tights in regions affected by civil wars--worked against the improvement of U.S.-India relations. The United States reduced its foreign aid appropriations by 20 percent, reneged on the delivery of promised cryogenic rocket engines to India, and began renewing certain types of commercial sales to Pakistan that Congress had found to be prohibited by the Pressler Amendment.(n45)

The contradictory agenda of the Clinton administration was reflected in confusing messages.(n46) The administration praised the Rao government's economic and foreign policies and at the same time criticized its violation of human rights in suppressing the ongoing Sikh rebellion in the Punjab and especially in Kashmir, where half a million troops were fighting a civil war against Muslim militants. Washington's failure to name an ambassador to New Delhi for sixteen months after the departure of Thomas Picketing in March 1993 created a diplomatic vacuum.(n47) In January 1994, to compensate for its lack of official contacts, the Indian government belatedly hired McAuliffe, Kelly and Rafaelli, the firm of former presidential aide Michael Deaver, as its first professional lobbyist in Washington.

Ironically, it was an achievement by Representative Solarz that further muddied the waters. In the belief that the State Department had long ignored India because of its being linked with the Near East in the policymaking process, Solarz secured passage of a bill establishing a separate South Asia Bureau. However, in the absence of an ambassador in New Delhi and without attention from the secretary of state or the president, India became the province of Robin Raphael, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia. (Raphael was a friend of Bill Clinton's from Oxford, who had been married to the late American ambassador to Pakistan.) Raphael's less-than-diplomatic statements, which suggested that the United States had reconsidered its position on the partition of Kashmir, drew little attention in Washington(n48) but created the illogical impression at the highest levels of the Indian government that the Clinton administration was out to destabilize India, even as it was trying to promote American investment there.

The return to power of Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto in late 1993 complicated the effort to improve U.S.-India relations. Bhutto was well connected in Washington and perceived as pro-American. The Clinton administration announced its determination to bolster her fragile domestic position, which was jeopardized by the unprecedented violence occurring in Karachi. Unable to promote Pakistan as a front-line state, Washington began to advance Islamabad as a moderate Islamic influence and a linchpin connecting American interests to the newly independent Central Asian countries.

In November 1993 Senator Larry Pressler (R-S.Dak.) revealed that the Clinton administration was considering rescinding his 1985 amendment that had led to the cutoff of assistance to Pakistan in 1990.(n49) The mechanism was to be the repeal of any country-specific language in a major revision of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. The Pressler Amendment was depicted as an "obstacle" to improved ties with Pakistan. Because of the legislation, Congress could not authorize delivery of seventy-one F-16 aircraft even though Pakistan had already paid the American manufacturer $658 million for the first twenty-eight. Given its budgetary situation, the United States could not return the money. It was costing the government of Pakistan $50,000 a year to store and maintain each aircraft in the United States. In the guise of fairness, the Clinton administration, led by the Defense Department, set out to find a compromise.(n50) It attempted to convince Congress to enact a one-time waiver of the Pressler Amendment because there was no more nonproliferation mileage to be gained from it. While Prime Minister Bhutto was in Washington, Clinton pledged "to ask Congress to show some flexibility in the Pressler Amendment so that we can have some economic and military cooperation."(n51)

Even though Senators Pressler and Glenn documented hundreds of violations of the original legislation by Pakistan, which was proceeding covertly with its nuclear program, the Clinton administration's campaign to improve relations with Pakistan received important congressional backing. Significant changes in committee membership after the 1992 elections made Clinton's task easier. Because of Solarz's defeat after redistricting, Gary Ackerman became chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. This assured continuity in staff and policy outlook, but Solarz's departure diminished the panel's influence. More important, when Dante Fascell (D-Fla.) retired, Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.)--perhaps the most respected foreign policy figure in the House of Representatives--assumed the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee and greatly enhanced its stature. Hamilton, who had previously chaired the subcommittee that dealt with South Asia when it was attached to the Middle East, was receptive to improving ties with Pakistan because of its geostrategic importance in the Muslim world. He also felt that the Pressler Amendment had "outlived its usefulness," because it "threaten[ed] to drive Pakistan into an unholy partnership with Iran, Iraq, or other would-be proliferators." Hamilton claimed that it was "time to modify this amendment, or even to lift it altogether."(n52)

The Senate, however, was the important congressional actor regarding South Asia in the 1990s. Because of the lackluster leadership of the Foreign Relations Committee under the ailing Claiborne Pell, the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs assumed uncharacteristic significance under the chairmanship of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the former ambassador to India. Moynihan was well positioned to become the principal congressional player on South Asian issues, but unlike John Sherman Cooper a generation earlier, he was reluctant to do so. Although Senate Democrats, in an attempt to enhance the stature of the Foreign Relations Committee, had waived a rule to enable him to serve on two major committees, Moynihan concentrated on Senate Banking Committee matters.

Further changes in committee assignments followed after the Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress in 1995. Senator Glenn yielded the chairmanship of the Government Operations Committee, which had been monitoring Pakistan's compliance with the Pressler Amendment, to William Roth (R-Del.), who showed no interest in the subject. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), a twelve-term Republican interested primarily in Arab-Israeli affairs, took over the chairmanship of the renamed House International Relations Committee, and Doug Bereuter, a nine-term Republican representative from Nebraska, assumed the leadership of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. On the Senate side, Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) became chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Under his stewardship the full committee became particularly interested in human rights violations in Kashmir. Significantly, Hank Brown (R-Colo.), who had recently demonstrated interest in Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, was elevated to head that subcommittee, whereas Moynihan was ousted from it as well as from the Foreign Relations Committee.(n53)

The Brown Amendment

Senator Brown, as chairman of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, became the administration's point person for watering down the Pressler Amendment on Capitol Hill. Consistent with what Stephen Weissman calls "a culture of deference" to the executive branch,(n54) Brown replicated the administration's contradictory approach toward India. He held a series of hearings in which State and Defense Department officials were presented with a platform urging the reexamination of the Pressler Amendment. In testimony remarkable for its lack of balance, experts were repeatedly paraded before the Brown and Bereuter committees, where they branded India "as the greatest source of instability in South Asia."(n55) They resurrected anachronistic Cold War logic to portray India as tied to Russia, and described Pakistan as linked to the American security system through Saudi Arabia. They suggested that the Pressler cutoff was not evenhanded but had produced a conventional balance of forces favoring New Delhi, and that a one-time exception to the arms embargo would not materially influence nuclear proliferation in the region. All of these arguments were repeated on the Senate floor when the Brown Amendment (No. 2708) to the Foreign Operations Bill (H.R. 1868) was taken up on 20 September 1995.(n56) Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) depicted Pakistan as a loyal partner of the United States on every Cold War issue from Korea to Afghanistan and portrayed India as a Soviet stooge always taking positions contrary to American interests. Brown objected to the Pressler Amendment as being "Pakistan-specific" and contended that a one-time waiver of the amendment to sell Pakistan $368 million in "obsolete" equipment would not upset the military balance on the subcontinent. He described Washington's failure to deliver aircraft or return money to Pakistan as a breach of contract.

In rebuttal, critics of the Brown Amendment such as Larry Pressler pointed out that more than $4 billion in American military and economic assistance during the 1980s had failed to give the United States leverage over Pakistan's nuclear program. John Glenn referred to the building of a nuclear weapon with American tax dollars as "an extraordinary act of deception," compounded by clandestine collaboration with Iran and China. He found the argument that the Pressler Amendment was unfair because it applied only to Pakistan "completely disingenuous." In his words, "If we had not had the waiver, we would not have needed Pressler," which was passed as a "unique special exemption" to the earlier Glenn-Symington bill. Other opponents of the Brown Amendment, such as Jim Exon (D-Nebr.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), and John Kerry (D-Mass.), were particularly concerned that Pakistan was being rewarded for noncompliance by legislation that required no nuclear guarantees or concessions from Islamabad.

Significantly, one of the most respected senators on international issues, Richard Lugar, who as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee had steered the Pressler Amendment through Congress in 1985, did not participate in the debate. Like a majority of others, he voted for the Brown Amendment, which passed by a margin of 55-45. The dissenters included thirty-four Democrats and eleven Republicans. On 1 November the House, over objections raised by the India Caucus, followed suit by a vote of 348-69. Very few members of Congress were willing to defeat the entire Foreign Operations Bill to uphold nuclear nonproliferation. The passage of the Brown Amendment is symbolic of the way that the United States has conducted policy toward India. Because South Asia is considered a low priority, the region was once again addressed in a compromise amendment to a foreign operations bill, not as an independent issue area.

Predictably, the passage of the Brown Amendment, signed into law by President Clinton on 27 January 1996, caused outrage in India, worsened its relations with the United States, and embarrassed Washington's friends in New Delhi.(n57) Politicians from across the political spectrum urged renewed acceleration of India's short-range Prithvi and medium-range Agni missile delivery systems. The militant Hindu BJP, then the principal opposition party, renewed its call for a nuclear option. The passage of the Brown Amendment and the Indian parliament's reaction to it showed the delicate nature of the Indo-American rapprochement. By resurrecting Cold War slogans, American members of Congress and Indian parliamentarians demonstrated their inability to adjust to the realities of the new unipolar international system.

The Post-Pokharan Transformation of the Perception of India in Washington

Despite predictions that bilateral ties would worsen when the BJP--on record as opposing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty--came to power in March 1998, there are indications that a sea change has taken place in U.S.-India relations. For the first time, American domestic considerations have worked to New Delhi's advantage in Washington's formulation of foreign policy.

Ironically, when India ended its self-imposed twenty-four-year moratorium and embarked on a series of nuclear tests in May 1998, most of the criticism came from friends of India who were also opponents of proliferation. Many members of Congress were outraged at New Delhi for not honoring assurances, supposedly made to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson in April, that it would not test nuclear weapons. Congress seemed more willing to excuse Pakistan for following India's example and conducting its own explosions. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), one of the few remaining opponents of nuclear proliferation in the House, denounced New Delhi's actions as "reckless, shameful and irresponsible." Dan Burton, predictably, urged his colleagues to "stop subsidizing" India's nuclear program by cutting foreign assistance. In particular, John Glenn, who had announced his pending retirement from the Senate, felt betrayed.(n58) Most pro-India members of Congress were conspicuously silent; Frank Pallone, India's principal defender on Capitol Hill, expressed regret about the tests as well as hope that they would "not derail" improvements in U.S.-India relations.(n59) He urged his colleagues to delay the imposition of sanctions if India pledged to refrain from further testing. Nevertheless, the minority leader, Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), felt that in light of the tests there could no longer be "business as usual" with India.(n60) He and several other lawmakers cancelled plans to visit India and scaled back appearances before the Indian American community, whose enthusiastic support of the tests was viewed as repugnant by Americans. In the Senate, Tom Harkin, drawing on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's remarks on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, referred to a day of "infamy" in condemning the Indian tests. Harkin and Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), who had succeeded Hank Brown as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs in January 1997, promised that they would attempt to repeal the Pressler Amendment if Pakistan refrained from testing. Other legislators offered inducements if either country agreed to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Although pro-Pakistan legislators in Congress were forced to defuse their criticism of India when Islamabad conducted its own tests seventeen days after the Pokharan detonations, there was a widespread feeling on the Hill that Pakistan was much less culpable than its neighbor, because New Delhi had tested first and historically espoused nonviolence. Expressing a widely shared sentiment, Richard Lugar, the Senate's leading Republican authority on foreign affairs, asserted that the administration shared the blame for India's tests because it had not seriously engaged New Delhi. Senators Moynihan and Joseph Biden, the latter the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called for an end to America's benign neglect of South Asia.(n61) Connie Mack (R-Fla.) expressed a similar view, pointing out that India--unlike China--was not a nuclear proliferator and had broken no American laws.(n62) Senate opponents of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, such as Jesse Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), blamed the South Asian tests on the administration's pressure on India and Pakistan to sign the treaty.

Senator Glenn's 1994 amendment, the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act, called for sanctions on states that engaged in nuclear tests--legislation that automatically applied to India. President Clinton imposed sanctions on New Delhi on 13 May, two days after the Pokharan tests. Similar penalties followed the Pakistani explosions on 28 and 30 May--the fourth such American arms embargo in the region. Because Pakistan's fragile economy was viewed as being dependent on international assistance, Pakistan was treated more leniently than India with respect to the curbing of multilateral assistance by international granting agencies, so that sanctions would not destabilize its weak government. Pakistan was also the third-largest foreign purchaser of U.S. wheat at a time when the U.S. farming industry was in a desperate crisis. Almost immediately, legislation calling for exemptions was introduced. An eighteen-member Senate task force headed by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Joseph Biden recommended that agricultural credits be exempt, to avoid penalizing the American farmer. Most important, Senator Sam Brownback, who came from the agriculturally depressed farm belt, introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill to waive nonmilitary sanctions against India and Pakistan for a year. The legislation (the India-Pakistan Relief Act of 1998) passed the Senate without hearings by a vote of 98-0. It granted authority to the president to waive all sanctions except those pertaining to military assistance, dual-use exports, and military sales for one year. Only the threat of a filibuster from Senator Glenn, who had left for a NASA training exercise in Houston, forced the dropping of provisions that applied to other categories.

The Clinton administration had misgivings about the original Brownback Amendment because it gave Congress the power to waive sanctions without presidential approval. But the administration also viewed Brownback's amendment as a further opportunity to water down the Pressler Amendment and resume arms sales to Pakistan. The president immediately restored military training programs and government-backed financing credit guarantees to both Pakistan and India. The Indian government, although it welcomed the lifting of sanctions, benefited less than its rival because India purchases weapons systems and spare parts from Russia. In December the president eliminated a long-standing irritant in U.S.-Pakistan relations by paying Islamabad $325 million in cash and $140 million in goods as compensation for the undelivered twenty-eight F-16 aircraft that had been purchased but whose delivery had been precluded by the Pressler Amendment.

In "a stunning retreat from Capitol Hill's decades-long reliance on punitive measures to block the spread of weapons of mass destruction,"(n63) Congress passed a second Brownback Amendment in October 1999. It gave President Clinton the authority to waive permanently (an earlier version was limited to five years) all provisions of the Glenn Amendment for India and Pakistan, as well as all sections of the Symington Amendment, which had prohibited almost all U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan. Ironically, seventeen months after its nuclear tests, Pakistan--through the efforts of its principal lobbyist, former Texas representative Charles Wilson--was restored to pre-October 1990 status under American nonproliferation law.(n64) India, which does not purchase American wheat, was piggybacked on the waiver through the efforts of Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), whose state had Boeing contracts in India that were affected by the sanctions legislation. Roberts, a former House Agriculture Committee chairman, played a key role in getting his colleagues in both houses to accept the package in a defense authorization bill.

Nevertheless, developments in 1999 worked in New Delhi's favor. Pakistan's unprovoked armed incursion in the Kargil area of Kashmir and the military coup in Islamabad, which coincided with India's thirteenth round of democratic national elections in October, led Congress to reauthorize the Clinton administration to lift indefinitely most remaining sanctions against New Delhi, while retaining the Glenn Amendment prohibitions that were directed against Islamabad. For the first time, according to Representative Gary Ackerman, India and Pakistan were viewed by Congress as distinctive entities.(n65) Representative Benjamin Gilman, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, led a congressional effort to oppose the resumption of military aid to Islamabad. By a vote of 21-4 his committee passed a resolution introduced by Representatives Sam Gejdneson (D-Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) that "condemned" the military coup in Pakistan and went on record as opposing the resumption of military assistance and training programs to Islamabad until a civilian government was restored.(n66) A conference committee on the Defense Department Authorization Act (H.R. 2561) determined that any further waiver of the Pressler provisions by the president would depend on his certification that democracy had returned to Pakistan (P.L. 106-79).

Ironically, India's nuclear tests led to a continuing dialogue between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh. Initially condemned by the Clinton administration, the tests precipitated the longest series of high-level bilateral talks in the history of the U.S.-India relationship. For the first time, there was a mutual attempt to structure the relationship independent of Indo-Pakistani or Indo-Russian concerns. A new bilateral relationship was proclaimed in a vision statement signed by President Clinton and Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee during the president's March 2000 visit to the subcontinent and in the Indian leader's remarks before a joint session of Congress in Washington the following September. Moreover, the failure of the BJP government to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty faded as an issue when the Republican-controlled Senate also rejected U.S. ratification. These developments led to the warmest bilateral relations since the military cooperation that occurred during the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962. Although numerous strains still exist--especially on trade and child labor issues--there is little doubt that Americans have become more sensitive to India's interests, especially on Capitol Hill. A Congressional panel urged President Clinton to "broaden our special relationship into a strategic partnership,"(n67) and by a vote of 396-4 the House lauded India as "a shining example of democracy for all of Asia to follow."(n68)

There are many reasons for Americans' increased sensitivity to India's interests. According to Representative Gilman, Congress (especially the Republican majority) now recognizes that India, because of its conflicts with China and Pakistan and because it is surrounded by Islamic terrorism, "is living in a tough neighborhood."(n69) Ironically, India has benefited from the defeat and retirement of proliferation opponents who were its friends, such as Larry Pressler and John Glenn, and from a decline in the appeal of sanctions among Republicans sensitive to the business community. In a Republican-controlled Congress, agricultural exports have higher priority than nuclear issues.(n70) Moreover, American legislators have finally realized that India's 1991 economic liberalization can yield domestic dividends. Its hundreds of millions of consumers have "attracted the attention of both Wall Street and Main Street."(n71) For the first time, economic opportunity figures in congressional thinking about India. Legislators who once avoided the region(n72) now regularly visit the commercial centers of Mumbai (Bombay), and India's silicon valley in Bangalore, as well as the capital, New Delhi. Pepsico and General Electric, which have major investments in India, have become important lobbyists for that country in Washington. As American investment in India increases, so too does New Delhi's influence in Washington, thanks to the activity of the U.S.-India Business Council and the India Interest Group lobby.

New Delhi's position on Capitol Hill has been bolstered especially by the political activity of the more than 1.2 million Indian Americans--up from 387,000 in 1980--who reside in the United States. Although their influence is diluted by Khalistani and Kashmiri separatists and Pakistani Americans, it is nonetheless growing. The Pakistani American community was very active in working for the passage of the 1995 Brown Amendment and, a year later, for the defeat of Pressler in the congressional elections. Its success in those two endeavors stimulated the Indian American community to become much more involved in American politics. The educational achievement and economic status of this upwardly mobile community have changed perceptions in the U.S. Congress. The Indian American community has a higher per capita income and a larger percentage of its work force holds managerial or professional positions than any other group in the country.(n73) The community has an especially high proportion of doctors, engineers, scientists, architects, and computer technologists. Moreover, these highly paid professionals, derisively characterized by their opponents as the "chapati lobby" are politically active--especially in the major urban-industrial states of the Northeast and Midwest and in California. Their outreach through groups such as the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin translates into political and financial clout.(n74) Members of Congress see many reasons to be attentive to their concerns and few reasons not to be.(n75) The Indian American Friendship Council attracted nearly forty lawmakers to a July 1999 function in Washington, which featured speeches by House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, House International Relations Committee chair Benjamin Gilman, and Doug Bereuter, chairman of the House subcommittee that deals with Asia.

The growing influence of the Indian American community is reflected in the strength of the 108-member India Caucus, which now constitutes more than a quarter of the House (106th Congress). The positions of the caucus on South Asian and related matters, such as immigration, family reunification, and civil rights, must be taken into account by an administration that regards its numbers as a mixed blessing and a threat to executive control of foreign policy. By enlisting floor speakers, lining up votes, and placing material in the Congressional Record, the India Caucus has for the first time provided India "with an institutional base of support on Capitol Hill."(n76) Although my research indicates that the strength of the caucus is exaggerated--that its accomplishments are limited to "feel-good" resolutions rather than substantive legislation--its existence in the House has reinforced the administration's preference for dealing with the Senate, which can pass amendments that are not germane to legislation under consideration. Senator Brownback, in particular, has used his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs as a platform to advance a wider agenda at a time when the comparable House committees are involved in jurisdictional and personal disputes that make them ineffective.(n77) The Clinton administration was forced to react to Brownback's promise to introduce legislation removing all remaining nonmilitary sanctions toward India.

At the same time, India's critics, to judge by an unsuccessful attempt to involve the United States directly in the Kashmir dispute, have been reduced to forty-six members in the House--among them Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.)-and a very important fifteen, including Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who have been targeted in the Senate. With the retirement of such stalwarts as Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Rules Committee, and Robert Livingston (R-La.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, most of Pakistan's supporters in the House, outside the Black Caucus and the Armed Services Committee,(n78) have been marginalized and discredited.(n79) Other legislators, such as Tom Harkin and Dana Rohrabacher, have been silent since the coup in Islamabad. Dan Burton's annual amendments to slash assistance to India have found little support in recent years. The net result of these diverse developments has been a remarkable turnaround in congressional attitudes toward India and U.S.-India ties that is likely to continue during the Bush administration. The transformation of attitudes on Capitol Hill from indifference or deep-seated hostility to their current positive status confirms the necessity that a foreign country have a strong domestic base of support in the American political system if it intends to be influential in Washington.


This article is adapted from a presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, 24 May 2000, in Washington, D.C. I conducted the research for the article with the assistance of a Public Policy Fellowship from the Wilson Center. I would like to thank Robert Hathaway for his suggestions and comments.

(n1.) Norman D. Palmer, South Asia and United States Policy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966), 10.

(n2.) James A. Robinson, Congress and Foreign Policy-Making (Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press, 1967), vii.

(n3.) Robert M. Hathaway, "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but No One Wants to Die: The U.S. Congress and South Asian Nuclear Tests," unpublished paper, November 1999, 9.

(n4.) This was the view of a senior analyst at the Congressional Research Service, whom I interviewed in Washington, D.C., on 15 April 1986.

(n5.) See India Today, 15 November 1993, 207-9.

(n6.) For details, see India Abroad, 16 October 1998, 18; and 23 October 1998, 12.

(n7.) Richard Fenno, The Power of the Purse (Boston: Little, Brown, 1966).

(n8.) Alvin Peter Drischler, "Foreign Policy Making on the Hill," Washington Quarterly 8 (Summer 1985): 171.

(n9.) Small wonder that Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who became the chairman of a powerful Senate subcommittee responsible for assistance, abandoned the Foreign Relations Committee for the Appropriations Committee. As he put it, "The difference between us and them is we're shooting with real bullets .... We spend real money" (New York Times, 1 January 1995).

(n10.) Peter Tomsen, U.S. Congressional Perspectives of India: A Case Study (Washington, D.C.: Department of State, n.d.), 5.

(n11.) Harold Isaacs, Scratches on Our Minds (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1980), xxiii.

(n12.) See William Watts, The United States and Asia: Changing Attitudes and Policies (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 1982).

(n13.) Asia Society, Asia and American Textbooks (New York: Asia Society, 1976).

(n14.) Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, "United States-Indian Cultural Relations" (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 1982).

(n15.) John W. Mellor, conclusion of India: A Rising Middle Power, ed. John W. Melior (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1979), 359.

(n16.) Christopher Van Hoellen, "The Tilt Policy Revisited: Nixon-Kissinger Geopolitics and South Asia," Asian Survey 20 (April 1980): 341.

(n17.) James Warner Bjorkman, "Public Law 480 and the Policies of Self-Help and Short-Tether: Indo-American Relations, 1965-68," in The Regional Imperative.' U.S. Foreign Policy towards South Asian States, ed. Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1980), 234.

(n18.) John P. Lewis, India's Political Economy, Governance and Reform (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995), 87.

(n19.) Robert Dahl, Congress and Foreign Policy (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950), 15.

(n20.) John W. Melior and Philip Oldenburg, "India and the United States," in India: A Rising Middle Power, ed. John W. Melior (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1979), 4 (quoted from Playboy, March 1977, 78).

(n21.) U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia, Hearings: Political Trends in India and Bangladesh, 93d Congress, 1st session, 31 October 1973, 18.

(n22.) Baldev Raj Nayar, "Treat India Seriously," Foreign Policy 18 (Spring 1975): 133-54.

(n23.) Myron Weiner, "Critical Choices for India and America," in Southern Asia: The Politics of Poverty. and Peace, ed. Donald C. Hellmann (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 1976), 65.

(n24.) Sulochana Raghavan Glazer and Nathan Glazer, introduction to Conflicting Images: India and the United States. ed. Sulochana Raghaven Glazer and Nathan Glazer (Glen Dale, Md.: Riverdale, 1990), 4.

(n25.) U.S. Department of State, Office of Intelligence Research, "India's Political and Economic Position in the East-West Conflict," OIR Report No. 5526, 15 May 1951, 1.

(n26.) For an elaboration, see Arthur G. Rubinoff, "U.S. Attitudes towards India," in Canada and South Asia: Political and Strategic Relations, ed. Arthur G. Rubinoff (Toronto: South Asia Centre of the University of Toronto, 1992), 63-73.

(n27.) Palmer, South Asia and United States Policy, 10.

(n28.) Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 93.

(n29.) Ibid., 15.

(n30.) Ibid., 63.

(n31.) Prime Minister Nehru explicitly stated that his country could not allow "the United States to tell India with whom it could trade as a price of aid." Dennis Kux, Estranged Democracies: India and the United States, 1941-1991 (New Delhi: Sage, 1993), 124.

(n32.) Quoted in McMahon, The Cold War on the Periphery, 173.

(n33.) Arthur G. Rubinoff, India's Use of Force in Goa (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971), 103.

(n34.) Palmer, South Asia and United States Policy, 150.

(n35.) U.S. Department of State, The Subcontinent of South Asia, Near and Middle East Series, No. 41 (1959), 6.

(n36.) U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia, The United States and South Asia, 93d Congress, 1st session, 25 May 1973, 20.

(n37.) Francis R. Valero, South Asia: Report on Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan to the Majority Leader, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 94th Congress, 2d session, 1976, 13.

(n38.) U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia, Hearings: United States Interests in and Policies toward South Asia, 93d Congress, 1st session, 12, 15, 20, and 27 March 1973, vi.

(n39.) U.S. Congress, House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on International Organizations, Hearings, Human Rights in India, 94th Congress, 2d session, 23, 28, 29 June 1976; 16, 23 September 1976.

(n40.) McMahon, The Cold War on the Periphery, 165, 212.

(n41.) Norman D. Palmer, The United States and India (New York: Praeger, 1984), 216.

(n42.) Peter Galbraith, "Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia," in Conflicting Images: India and the United States, ed. Sulochana Raghavan Glazer and Nathan Glazer (Glen Dale, Md.: Riverdale, 1990), 72.

(n43.) See my case study titled "Congressional Attitudes towards India," in The Hope and the Reality: Indo-American Relations from Roosevelt to Reagan, ed. Harold Gould and Sumit Ganguly (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992), 167-73.

(n44.) Randy J. Rydell, "Giving Nonproliferation Norms Teeth: Sanctions and the NPPA," Nonproliferation Review (Winter 1999): 1-19. Incredibly, the Clinton administration did not attempt to prevent the passage of this legislation, which denied it discretion.

(n45.) On the latter point, see James M. Lindsay, Congress and the Politics of U.S. Foreign Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 92.

(n46.) See Arthur G. Rubinoff, "Missed Opportunities and Contradictory Policies: Indo-American Relations in the Clinton-Rao Years," Pacific Affairs 69 (Winter 1996-97): 499-517.

(n47.) Stephen Solarz, a long-time supporter of India and the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs (as it was called at the time), had been defeated in 1992 after his involvement in the House Bank check-kiting scandal. He was expected to be the new envoy but was never officially nominated. Halfway through the process, the administration became reluctant to subject Solarz to a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he could be exonerated on charges of influence peddling. The Indians, who did not understand the American confirmation process, were indignant about what they regarded as an ongoing diplomatic slight. Eventually the Clinton administration nominated a career diplomat, Frank Wisher, who took up his post in July 1994.

(n48.) However, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, said that he had held subcommittee hearings on 4 February 1994 because "I do not believe in the history of our diplomatic relations with the Republic of India we have ever had such an interregnum." He was particularly disturbed that Robin Raphael's statements questioning the legitimacy of the accession of Kashmir to the government of India had caused Indians to perceive "a shift in U.S. policy." At the same session Senator Hank Brown (R-Colo.), who had just returned from the subcontinent, reported that he had found the Indians "outraged." He advised Raphael that her job as a diplomat was to keep her "mouth shut," not to inflame bilateral relations. Stenographic Transcript of Hearings of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 4 February 1994.

(n49.) Hindustan Times (New Delhi), 29 November 1993, 14.

(n50.) In a speech for the Foreign Policy Association in New York on 31 January 1995, Secretary William Perry called the Pressler Amendment "a blunt instrument that undermined U.S. influence with Pakistan."

(n51.) New York Times, 12 April 1995, 1.

(n52.) Statement by Representative Lee H. Hamilton, submitted to the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 9 March 1995.

(n53.) New York Times, 6 January 1995.

(n54.) Stephen R. Weissman, A Culture of Deference (New York: Basic Books, 1995).

(n55.) Testimony of Bruce Fein regarding South Asian foreign policy before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, 14 September 1995.

(n56.) Congressional Record, vol. 141, no. 147, 20 September 1995, pp. S13909-13971; and vol. 141, no. 147, 21 September 1995, pp. S13995-14005.

(n57.) Parliamentarians from the parties on the Left ridiculed the Rao government for pursuing what they regarded as a misguided policy of cooperation with the United States (Indian Express, 25 September 1995). The setback to U.S.-India relations was signaled by a speech that Home Minister S. B. Chavan addressed to the Rajya Sabha on 29 November 1995. According to Chavan, the selling of arms to Pakistan indicated "evil designs" that the United States had on the subcontinent. The BJP opposition leader endorsed his unfounded assertion that the United States was interested in acquiring a "foot hold" in Kashmir (The Hindu [international edition], 16 December 1995, 5). Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee declared that, by selling arms to Pakistan, the United States was once again forcing India to divert scarce resources to the military sector. Commerce Minister P. Chidambaram claimed that the Brown Amendment "cast a shadow over commercial ties" because higher military spending undermined the free enterprise economy the United States desired to see established in India (Indian Express [New Delhi], 8 December 1995, 1).

(n58.) Hathaway, "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," 2. In this section I have drawn on this manuscript extensively.

(n59.) Congressional Record, vol. 144, no. 59, 12 May 1998, p. H3080.

(n60.) Quoted in Hathaway, "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," 2.

(n61.) Congressional Record, vol. 144, no. 98, 23 July 1998, pp. S8685-87.

(n62.) Ibid., vol. 144, no. 78, 16 June 1998, pp. S6357-58.

(n63.) Hathaway, "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," 6.

(n64.) New York Times, 12 February 2000, 8.

(n65.) Representative Gary Ackerman, spoken remarks, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., 24 February 2000.

(n66.) Indian Express (Internet edition), 11 November 1999.

(n67.) Indian Express (lnternet edition), 28 October 1999.

(n68.) limes of India (Internet edition), 18 November 1999.

(n69.) India Today (online daily edition), 3 August 1999.

(n70.) Robert M. Hathaway, "Confrontation and Retreat: The U.S. Congress and the South Asian Nuclear Tests," Arms Control Today 30 (January-February 2000): 7-14.

(n71.) Hathaway, "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," 13.

(n72.) On this point see Godfrey Hodgson, The Gentleman from New York: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Biography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 206.

(n73.) See Karen Leonard, The South Asian Americans (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997).

(n74.) According to Fortune (19 July 1999, 85), 20 percent of Representative Frank Pallone's donors have Indian surnames and 68 percent of those donors live outside New Jersey, the state that he represents.

(n75.) Miles A. Pomper and Sumana Chatterjee, "Congress Embraces India as Pakistan's Influence Fades," Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 18 March 2000, 57883.

(n76.) Hathaway, "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," 12.

(n77.) Benjamin Gilman unsuccessfully attempted to retain the chairmanship of the House International Relations Committee beyond the Republican caucus's three-term limit at a time when several other legislators, including Doug Bereuter, chair of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, sought the post (Roll Call, 27 March 2000, 1). When Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) became chair of the full committee in the 107th Congress, he named Gilman chair of a new subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

(n78.) The Defense Department remains an important supporter of Pakistan on the Hill. See statement of General Anthony C. Zinni, Commander in Chief U.S. Central Command, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, 29 February 2000, 6, in which he called Pakistan "the key to stability in Afghanistan and Central Asia."

(n79.) Dan Burton has been accused of demanding and obtaining illegal contributions from Sikh and Pakistani lobbyists (The Hill, 16 April 1997, 1).