The Clinton administration is hailing India's admission that it has chemical weapons, and facilities to produce them, as evidence that the recently- approved Chemical Weapons Convention is working. The treaty not only calls for a ban on the weapons, but for nations that harbor them to "come clean."
However, the pact also requires nations that do "come clean" to submit to a "challenge inspection" to ensure that it is now telling the truth and is taking steps to get rid of the weapons. So far, the administration, content to praise India for its honesty, has made no such challenge.
This is exactly the wrong tack to take, says Heritage Foundation defense policy analyst Baker Spring. The confession of prior weapons transgressions is also an admission of prior lying. For years India claimed it had no chemical weapons program.
The proper U.S. response, advises Spring, would be to condemn India for its earlier dishonesty and to insist that all of its suspected chemical sites be inspected. This would help ensure Indians won't lie again, if it suits their purpose.
Such an approach would demonstrate to India -- and other CWC signatory nations -- that the arms control verification and compliance procedures pertain to each of them. Absent that type of strong response, the message is sent that only the U.S. and other law-abiding countries intend to adhere strictly to the treaty's terms.
We don't believe the U.S. should have signed onto this treaty in the first place, but now that we are a part of it, we agree with Spring that we should try to make it work. Sweeping concerns under the rug about India's trustworthiness as a treaty partner ruins that process.
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