Though a nuclear deal with the US is not likely during Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s on-going visit, experts and at least one lawmaker are urging the Obama administration against it.
Pakistan’s record on proliferation, Republican lawmaker Ted Poe said in a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, disqualifies it for “any consideration by the US to support civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan bilaterally or in any relevant multilateral forum”.
Lisa Curtis, a South Asia expert at the right-leaning think tank Heritage foundation wrote earlier this week that the president must focus the meeting on obtaining Pakistan’s cooperation on counter-terrorism “rather than on striking a civil nuclear deal—the terms of which Pakistan would be unlikely to honour in any case”.
A flurry of recent reports in US media indicated suggested the Obama administration was discussing a nuclear deal with Pakistan which would cap latter’s nuclear arsenal in return for Washington facilitating easier access for it nuclear material and supplies from the 38-member nuclear supplier group, for civilian nuclear use.
The reports indicated a deal could be announced during Sharif visit this week — he meets Obama on Thursday — but officials ruled that out in subsequent interactions with reporters.
But they didn’t deny the US was working on a nuclear deal with Pakistan, which has been demanding one since India got one in 2005, citing the need to retain regional parity and stability.
Islamabad is unlikely to accept any deal that caps its nuclear arsenal, which is said to be the world’s fastest growing, and its officials have, in fact, ruled any deal that compromises their national security interest.
But Pakistan will find its proliferation record coming in the way of any nuclear deal it discusses with the US now or after Sharif’s visit. “Pakistan’s nuclear program has been built through the theft of technology deception, and clandestine international cooperation,” Poe said in his letter.
Curtis pointed to Pakistan’s proliferation history too, it added its record on counter-terrorism to argue against the deal. “Rewarding a country that is responsible for the most significant nuclear proliferation disaster in history (the AQ Khan affair) and which has continually rebuffed US appeals to crack down on terrorists (such as the Haqqani network) would undermine US credibility and contribute to regional instability.
Another expert, Micheal Kugelman, of the Woodrow Wilson institute, in fact, has said in an op-ed that nothing much should be expected from this visit. Subjects lined up for discussion — counter-terrorism cooperation, nuclear security, the Afghanistan peace process with the Taliban — “are matters over which the military, not the premier, hold sway and have the final say”.
A more important meeting is taking place next month — when Pakistani army chief Raheel Sharif visits Washington.