The US is exploring an agreement with Pakistan that could place new limits and controls on Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal but could also pave the way for a version of its civil nuclear deal with India, according to a media report.
The accord is part of fresh efforts by the White House to reduce tension and violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, leading columnist David Ignatius said in an article for the Washington Post.
In response, Pakistan’s foreign office said Wednesday, “Our nuclear policy is shaped by evolving security dynamics of South Asia, growing conventional asymmetry, provocative doctrines and aggressive posturing by India, which obliges us to take all necessary measures to maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability to safeguard our national security, maintain strategic stability and deter any kind of aggression from India.” It said that as a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan remained actively engaged with the international community, including the US, on nuclear stability and security issues.
There was no official reaction from Delhi, but it is understood to be closely watching the developments and US-Pakistan interface on the nuclear question.
Ignatius called the proposed accord a “diplomatic blockbuster”, saying it would place “possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems” and “might eventually open a path toward a Pakistani version of the civil nuclear deal that was launched with India in 2005”.
“A source familiar with the talks said Pakistan had been asked to consider what are described as ‘brackets’. Pakistan would agree to restrict its nuclear programme to weapons and delivery systems that are appropriate to its actual defence needs against India’s nuclear threat. Pakistan might agree not to deploy missiles capable of reaching beyond a certain range, for example,” the article said.
In return, the US “might support an eventual waiver for Pakistan by the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group”. The article went on to say that “at the urging of the US, the NSG agreed to exempt India from rules that banned nuclear trade with countries that evaded the Non-Proliferation Treaty”, thereby allowing India into the club of nuclear powers.
“Pakistan prizes its nuclear programme, so negotiations would be slow and difficult, and it’s not clear that Islamabad would be willing to accept the limitations… But the issue is being discussed quietly in the run-up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington Oct 22,” Ignatius wrote.
Any progress would break a stalemate that has existed since the US detected Pakistan’s nuclear programme in the mid-1980s, and especially after Pakistan exploded its first weapon in 1998.
Pakistan has repeatedly sought a civil nuclear deal on the lines of the one given to India, calling the US approach discriminatory. In the past, the US has been reluctant to publicly commit to such a deal with Pakistan.