No compromise on N-assets


WEB DESK: To some wonder, the joint statement issued following the sixth round of US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue is not as jaundiced about Pakistan’s nuclear programme as is the hubbub generated outside. But in places it is dangerously opaque, liable to be misinterpreted.

The statement skips Secretary of State John Kerry’s advice that Pakistan should consider cutting down its nuclear arsenal – to which the Pakistani side had responded by advising the host to stop viewing Pakistan’s nuclear programme through lenses borrowed from East (read India) or the West (read western intelligence and media). Pakistan must be afforded its own strategic space. If that was a polite diplomatic rebuff, the statement by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was not. Winding up his policy statement on ‘Public Debt and Economy’ in the Senate the other day he lambasted the perception that the country’s whopping foreign debt would force the rollback of its nuclear programme.

Let this debt swell to even $100 trillion, there would be no rollback, he dared the Wall Street 2008 article that proposed the Western donors to agree on a $100 billion economic package in exchange for Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile. And the Foreign Office insists that Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, has ‘impressed upon the United States not to contribute to strategic imbalance in South Asia by helping India’. Undoubtedly, Pakistan remains committed to the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 which requires all member states to enforce appropriate measures against nuclear proliferation.

But nobody should expect that it would jettison its tactical nuclear weapons regime under this resolution. If the statement appreciates Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to harmonise its strategic trade controls with those of multilateral export control regimes, it should have gone a step further and taken note of Pakistan’s demand to be admitted to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, along with India. And how come the United States expects of Pakistan to evolve a non-strategic outlook of its nuclear programme while it has signed up an uninterrupted access of its nuclear technology and know-how to India, which helps it become an unchallenged nuclear power in the region.

Pakistan is committed to a sustainable peace in South Asia, and for that to happen nuclear parity is the only option. Only by maintaining minimum credible nuclear deterrence Pakistan has been able to secure peace in the region where its arch rival, India, has asymmetrically become a military power by virtue of huge imbalance in conventional weaponry both indigenously manufactured and extensively imported. Self-defence is Pakistan’s sovereign right. If somebody is worried that its nuclear arsenal continues to grow and if “we are concerned that this growth, as well as evolving doctrine associated with tactical nuclear weapons, increase risk of an incident or accident,” he can rest assured there is going to be no incident or accident involving Pakistan’s strategic assets.

And if somebody thinks he can perform a ‘miracle’ by defanging Pakistan of its nuclear teeth and force its rollback he is sadly mistaken. Ideally, the United States should harmonise its wishes with ground realities in South Asia. It keeps harping about the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba when the Pakistan security forces are engaged in their most treacherous encounters with these very outfits in North Waziristan and rest of the country. Did India arrest the perpetrators of the Samjhota Express carnage? No, it didn’t. But Pakistan took no time in taking Maulana Masood Azhar into custody even when his role in the Pathankot terrorist attack is yet to be meaningfully established.

The sixth round of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue should have delved deeper into the history of this bilateralism with a view to preparing ambience for a meaningful nuclear summit being hosted by President Obama and among others, attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The reality is that John Kerry’s quote on Pakistan’s nuclear programme has stirred a debate. It has given birth to some wild speculations. One of these speculations suggests that the PM is being called to Washington DC to sign a nuclear rollback under the threat of economic sanctions.

Source: Business Recorder