The US is not negotiating a civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan, a senior American official said on Thursday, shortly after President Barack Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The official also challenged reports of the Obama administration green-lighting the sale of eight F-16s, a traditional symbol in South Asia of US support for Pakistan.
Obama met Sharif for two hours at the White House on Thursday, their second meeting so far, amid reports of continuing distrust between one-time allies.
Sharif assured Obama of his country’s resolve to deny the Haqqani Network, an Afghan Taliban outfit that has been called a veritable arm of ISI, sanctuary in Pakistan.
Sharif’s assurances terrorism impressed the US, according to the official, who couldn’t identified and who said it (Pakistani assurance) was both new and impressive.
But New Delhi, which has been following the visit closely, will take his assurances with dollops of skepticism given its experience dealing with them before.
It will be happiest still about the American official’s statement on the nuclear deal and the purported sale of F-16s to Pakistan, which Islamabad had hoped to throw against India.
“There is no such thing as a nuclear deal,” the official said to a question about the nuclear deal at a briefing held exclusively for Indian journalists in Washington DC.
“What has been reported in (US) media is some sort of a civilian nuclear package alleged to be something like the one US concluded with India 10 years ago.”
US signed a nuclear agreement with India in 2005 that allows latter access to nuclear supplies from the exclusive Nuclear Suppliers Group despite not being a signatory to NPT.
Recent US media reports indicated the Obama administration was willing to give Pakistan a similar deal in exchange for Islamabad accepting a cap on its nuclear arsenal.
“Let me assure you categorically,” the official said, adding, “the press allegations of 123 agreement (a US legal requirement for any nuclear deal) with Pakistan are completely false.”
He said, “Pakistan has made clear its interest in civilian nuclear cooperation and has called it a socio-economic imperative because of its energy shortfall.”
But, he added, “Let me state categorically we have not entered into negotiations on an 123 agreement with Pakistan, nor are we seeking an exception for Pakistan within the Nuclear Suppliers Group in order to facilitate civil nuclear exports.”