A special Senate task force will study whether economic sanctions against India and Pakistan are working, then consider the larger issue of how effective sanctions are in influencing the behavior of nations.
"I confess to being inconsistent myself, having supported sanctions in South Africa and opposed them in China," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., chairman of the new 18-member task force announced Friday by Senate leaders.McConnell said in a floor speech he would try to "see whether there's some kind of coherent way to go forward in this field."
The short-term goal "is to examine what can and should be done about the sanctions on India and Pakistan as a result of their nuclear programs," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.
The panel was set up by Lott and his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Tom Daschle. "With the recent series of nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, it's critical that we look at U.S. sanctions law and how it affects our ability to de-escalate the arms race in South Asia," Daschle said.
The United States has imposed sanctions nearly 70 times in the past five years - more than half the total of all sanctions imposed since World War II. Many members of Congress now are calling for sanctions against China. And legislation that passed the House last month, called the Freedom From Religious Persecution Act, could result in new sanctions on as many as 75 countries.
"There's a feeling on both sides of the aisle that perhaps the proclivity to place economic sanctions on countries around the world and with not a clear way of ending those has become a problem," Lott said.
Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan last month raised new questions about the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions. The threat of imposing economic sanctions on Pakistan did not stop it from conducting its own tests.