American establishment’s rethinking
David Ignatius, an opinion writer for the Washington Post in his recent treatise, is of the view that the United States has decided to work out a nuclear deal with Pakistan akin to the deal with India. There are reports or rumours suggesting that Pakistan would agree to some restrictions to its nuclear programme and weapons delivery systems, which are India specific. Ignatius reported or has been asked to throw a feeler to see Pakistan’s reaction if it would agree not to deploy missiles capable of reaching beyond a certain range. If the deal goes through, Pakistan will get US support for a waiver by the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group. One would not know why the author, while apparently building a case for Pakistan, wrote: “The White House is exploring what could be a diplomatic blockbuster: possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems.”
Such remarks may create doubts about the sincerity of purpose behind offering Pakistan civil nuclear agreement akin to the one signed with India. Anyhow, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan would accept any stringent conditions, as it has never compromised Pakistan’s nuclear programme and delivery system even in the worst of times. However, the US deep state seems to be rethinking about the policy towards Pakistan, after having realised that Pakistan is of crucial importance and cannot be ignored. As mentioned in the report, many meetings have been held between Pakistan and the US in this regard; and David Ignatius has not said anything new but made it public. Of course, the offer has come in the wake of a recent surge of Taliban violence in Afghanistan, building pressure on the US to address the issues it evaded a decade ago.
The proposed agreement would allow Pakistan to use nuclear technology for energy generation and commercial purposes, help solve energy problems and moreover enable it to be a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – a coveted position. Pakistan, however, can learn lessons from US-India civil nuclear deal. India faced opposition to the deal in regard to concerns about liability, threats to Indian sovereignty, and the prospects of stopping the nuclear-related supplies if India did not fall in line what the US wanted. Internationally, there were voices against the Indo-US nuclear deal terming it against the letter and spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Although the deal was done by Bush administration primarily to give boost to its nuclear industry, differences had marred the deal, and the US could not benefit to the extent it expected. It took quite a while to overcome differences over issues like reprocessing and uninterrupted supply of fuel.
The two countries had signed a deal in 2008 giving India access to civilian nuclear technology, but it was held up by US concerns over India’s strict laws on liability in the event of a nuclear accident. The US views India as a vast market and potential counterweight to China’s assertiveness in Asia, but at the same time it has apprehensions that India may use fuel covertly for weapons purposes. It is yet to be seen as to American demand on tracking the whereabouts of material supplied to the country, which was meant to ensure that India does not divert the nuclear materials to nuclear weapons’ production. Having that said, it appears that hypocrisy, strategic interest and greed of the US and the West for approximately hundred billion dollars had been victorious, and international covenants and laws were trampled.
Following the NSG waiver, India had signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, France, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Canada, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Namibia. However, given the constraints on any agreement imposed by New Delhi’s civil nuclear liability law, it is unclear whether US companies will conclude any reactor supply deals with India. In Russia, France, Germany and Japan etc, the state provides sovereign guarantee to the suppliers, whereas US Export-Import Bank would under no circumstances provide such guarantee. In this backdrop, American companies would not conclude any deal with India, as in case of any malfunctioning or mishap they will have to bear the brunt. The US nuclear industry has looked abroad for business as demand in the US has fallen. But without the Export-Import Bank’s backing, it would be harder for US companies to seal nuclear deals abroad.
The fact remains that the pact between the US and India exempts military facilities and stockpiles of nuclear fuel from scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations watchdog. India had remained outside the international nuclear mainstream since it misused Canadian and US peaceful nuclear assistance to conduct its 1974 nuclear bomb test, refused to sign the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and conducted additional nuclear tests in 1998. But the US and the West want to sell weapons and materials, and India has cash to buy those weapons. Pakistan also has dubious past in the light of information about A.Q. Khan having been involved in proliferation. This seems to be one of the reasons that the US has equated India and Pakistan, and decided to offer civil nuclear deal to Pakistan. Secondly, the US believes that Pakistan has taken adequate measures to control terrorism in Waziristan and elsewhere.
Thirdly, the US does not believe in propaganda by the Afghan government that Pakistan was behind Kunduz and other recent Taliban attacks. Fourthly, looking at what happened in Kunduz and at Nangarhar, there is realisation in the US that Afghan forces are no match to the Taliban or Daesh fighters. Finally, if relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan remain strained, militants’ outfits are likely to benefit from the absence of shared intelligence. It has to be mentioned that US and NATO forces - the world’s best fighting machine - also could not achieve their objective; hence expecting from Afghan forces to rein in or defeat the Taliban is asking too much of them. The US expects that in the near future there is going to be chaos and more bloodshed in Afghanistan; therefore to keep Pakistan away could be detrimental to its interests.