US nonsense on Pak nuclear issue

By Dr. Shireen M Mazari

Nothing can be as demeaning as Prime Minister Gilani’s declaration that Pakistan would abide by “US sanctions on Iran.” While UN sanctions under Chapter VII are obligatory for all member states, why should Gilani lay the country prostrate before the US? And this at a time when we are being cornered on all fronts, especially the nuclear, by this “ally”!

China and Pakistan have been cooperating in the field of civilian nuclear technology for many years now and since China became a member of the IAEA all the civilian reactors given by China have been subject to IAEA safeguards. Unlike in the case of India, after the Indo-US nuclear deal, Pakistan continues to go by the normal safeguards agreement for Non-NPT states. In India’s case it may be recalled, the US managed to get an India-specific safeguards agreement from the IAEA for those reactors that the US will either be providing fuel for or helping construct. Moreover, it is India that will decide which reactors will come under these loose safeguards and according to a unique provision – not present in any other IAEA safeguard model – India can opt out of the safeguards when it sees fit! The US also got country-specific export exceptions for India from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), which goes contrary to not only the NPT but also the NSG’s own guidelines. Ironically, the NSG first came into being in 1975 as a reaction to the 1974 Indian nuclear test where the explosive device used plutonium from a Canadian-supplied reactor. Even at that time, Canada irrationally chose to penalise Pakistan by immediately withdrawing aid to the KANUPP reactor despite it being under IAEA safeguards.

Now once again, the US is threatening to victimise Pakistan and try and sabotage the civilian nuclear deal with China – which is similar to and a continuation of past cooperation under IAEA scrutiny. The chosen forum for the present pressure on Pakistan is the upcoming NSG meeting in New Zealand. However, both China and Pakistan need to remember that the NSG is merely a ‘club’ of suppliers of nuclear technology where membership is by choice and there is nothing internationally and legally binding with regard to its decisions. So Pakistan and China are under no obligation to give in to unreasonable country-specific demands targeting Pakistan’s civilian nuclear programme – after all, China’s membership of the NSG is voluntary and while it can explain its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, it is under no compulsion to abandon it at the behest of the NSG. Another Muslim state, Iran, is also going to be targeted at the New Zealand NSG meeting.

However, this is not all. The US is effectively seeking to strangulate Pakistan on many strategic fronts and energy is one of them so that no vestige of sovereignty remains and Pakistan becomes totally dependent on the US on all crucial fronts. Yet, to fool the gullible Pakistani leadership (or perhaps the willing-to-be-fooled), the US administration blows hot and cold over Pakistan’s efforts to acquire access to energy sources. The Holbrooke drama over the Iran pipeline is one such recent example and it seems Prime Minister Gilani has succumbed to this US double talk.

On the nuclear issue, we are seeing the traditional collusion between the government and ‘independent’ think tanks with Christine Fair once again trying to be too clever by far in a publication co-authored with Seth Jones, where she revives an earlier recommendation of hers that the US should consider a nuclear deal with Pakistan. Sounds good one would think but then one reads the conditiona-lities and effectively it is a way of fulfilling the Kerry-Lugar Act’s nuclear demands/conditionalities on Pakistan. The Fair-Jones study asks the US to come up with “imaginative incentive for Pakistan” and to link nuclear assistance with Pakistan giving a “real and verifiable” commitment to eradicate militant groups from its territory! Now what exactly is “real and verifiable” for the US one shudders to think since already we have a large and intrusive US presence in Pakistan. The authors also have the gall to declare that “Pakistan has come to view US assistance as an entitlement” when it is the US that has come to view subjugation by Pakistan to US diktat as an entitlement! Honestly, one really wonders when our leadership will retrieve some basic self-respect and national dignity and distance itself from a US that would be lost without Pakistan’s cooperation right now in Afghanistan – and they know it too, only our leaders are oblivious of the realities on the ground, or have too many personal stakes linked to the US!

Anyhow, on the nuclear issue, the Fair-Jones report talks of a criteria-based civilian nuclear deal for Pakistan roughly modelled on the Indo-US nuclear deal – but for Pakistan such a deal would be tied to access to Dr Khan, greater access into Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, “submission to safeguards” (for which reactors is not clear since we already have our civilian reactors under IAEA safeguards) and the new demand of real and verifiable “metrics” in connection with elimination of militancy from Pakistan. So clearly there would in fact be no similarity to the Indian nuclear deal in the case of Pakistan!

Pakistan, in fact, does not need a nuclear deal with the US, since we have successful cooperation with China in the field of civilian nuclear technology and the IAEA is also satisfied with our safeguards in this connection. The costs of a nuclear deal with the US would far outweigh the benefits. One immediate cost which is not yet being mentioned by the US is the giving up of our principled position on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). So far, Pakistan’s Foreign Office through Ambassador Akr-am in Geneva and the military leadership have maintained a commitment to our rejection of the US-drafted FMCT before the CD in Geneva. The most recent expression of this was the statement by CJCSC General Majeed at the NDU graduation ceremony whereby he stated that Pakistan’s stand on the Fissile Material Treaty has to be seen in the context of emerging security dynamics of South Asia and it cannot “accept the existing asymmetry in fissile stocks, let alone its further aggravation – a potential unjustly given to our neighbour, without placing any obligations, through nuclear cooperation agreements made for petty commercial interests and in violation of all rules, by those very major powers who are expected to safeguard non-proliferation. By providing carte blanche to our neighbour, the stakes for Pakistan have been raised. We therefore, cannot submit to efforts for fast tracking of the issues that directly impinge upon our national security.”

He also explained why the present Treaty draft was effectively Pakistan-specific: “As far as the three Non-NPT nuclear weapon states are concerned, one state has always enjoyed a privileged position, while our neighbour has been given a special dispensation through the unprecedented NSG waiver, which would allow it to make qualitative and quantitative improvement in its nuclear weapons potential.”

If this still continues to be our official position, then surely it is time to give the US a definitive rebuff on the nuclear issue as well as making it clear to them that we neither seek nor need a nuclear deal with it.

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