Why Pakistan should give up its opposition to Indo-US nuclear deal

Washington: Pakistan’s penchant for parity with India has become an “extreme sport” – a continuous “scrum” against the impossible.

Nowhere was it more evident than at the just concluded Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference -- the ultimate gathering of the world's nuclear experts who discussed everything from deterrence to disarmament, from non-proliferation to weapons free zones.

Pakistanis brought one message -- and it was against India. Their pet peeve: the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, which accommodated India into the international nuclear regime as a nuclear weapon state for all practical purposes but left Pakistan conspicuously out.

Can Pakistan really hope to get more nuclear facilities through blackmail? Reuters

Can Pakistan really hope to get more nuclear facilities through blackmail? Reuters

Over the two-day conference, attended by 800 nuclear experts from around the world, more than 20 Pakistani spokesmen, students, and experts tried to blanket the relevant sessions to denounce the Indo-US nuclear agreement. Two officers of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division – Khalid Baruni and Zahir Kazmi – watched quietly.

The Pakistanis called the civil nuclear deal unfair. They blamed it for the “strategic imbalance” in South Asia. They said it was the main reason behind Pakistan’s rush to pile up more and more bomb making materials.

Yes, it all sounded very sour grapes and sometimes even sad because no one was really listening.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US who is close to the military establishment, was the leader of the pack, stern of mind and demeanor. Her blatant message: Give us the same deal or else. It was essentially a veiled threat that Pakistan will keep going down the dangerous road of piling more and more nuclear materials, for more and more bombs. It will cut off its nose to spite its face. And it will continue to block discussions on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) in Geneva, which might curb its runaway production.

“So far the international community has put nothing on the table. Either its gives us equal treatment with India or give a clear mandate that existing stocks (of all countries) will be reduced,” Lodhi tersely declared.

Pakistan is not being “a spoilt brat” in blocking the FMCT but only trying to close the gap with India, which has more fissile material.

Lodhi then declared that Pakistan was working to pile up enough nuclear materials for a “second strike capability” – as if that would raise confidence levels among her listeners.

The Americans and the Europeans listened politely. Their response: Get real. The world has lost its appetite for nuclear blackmail, especially from a Pakistan of the AQ Khan’s-nuclear-corner-shop fame.

But one has to give Pakistanis marks for the relentless effort they make with a decidedly bad hand. They keep arguing the “fairness doctrine” – we should get what India gets or it’s unfair – with a nuclear proliferation record of a sieve. They may want to forget the AQ Khan episode but the nuclear non-proliferation community hasn’t.

If it makes Pakistan feel any better, non-proliferation hardliners of whom there were hundreds at the conference, don’t like the Indo-US nuclear deal either. A small group of determined and noisy ones even tried to reverse it when Barack Obama became president, but the White House saw the benefit of having India as a strategic partner.

Here’s the bottomline: the nuclear deal was concluded to enable the larger logic of Indo-US relations to unfold. No amount of carping can reverse that.

And a lesson: the world is unfair. To fight unfairness, you have to bring something better to the table than nuclear blackmail.

Updated Date: Apr 11, 2013 10:24 AM

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