Whenever Americans are in trouble they promptly accept humbling terms and conditions but never forget to pick-up the threads immediately after the obtaining circumstances are over. When Soviets walked into Afghanistan, Pakistan was under severe American sanctions on account of its nuclear programme and lack of democratic dispensation. Americans came running to Pakistan, embraced the military ruler and promised to look the other way with regard to Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme.
Soon after the Geneva accords enabling Soviet pull-out from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s military ruler died, in an aeroplane crash under mysterious circumstances; and President Regan declined to sign annual certification to exempt Pakistan from the Pressler Amendment. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has now come-up with fanciful idea that US should remain in Afghanistan to protect Pakistan’s nuclear arms!
By 9/11 Pakistan had earned the dubious status of most sanctioned American ally; again with a military ruler on helm of affairs. Now Americans again needed Pakistan, hence all sanctions evaporated in the thin air. Vocal pressures of varying degrees to freeze and or roll back its nuclear programme continued, however, matters did not invoke any sanctions. Post 9/11 mantra mostly revolved around floating mythical scenarios depicting likelihood of Pakistani nukes falling in ‘terrorist hands’.
Presently, with Afghan conflict taking a relatively back seat, Pakistan-US relations appear slipping back to 1990s. Americans are now talking about a roll back in Pakistan’s nuclear programme while at the same time ignoring India’s qualitative jumps like acquisition of nuclear submarines, testing of submarine launched missiles, operationalization of Anti-ballistic Missile systems and associated space programme. Of these, the last two capabilities have come of age with active American support. And in case of Pakistan, subsidy for F-16 aircraft stands withdrawn and non-starter category restrictions have been slapped on US$ 450 million aid i.e. “unless Pakistan fights Haqqanis more effectively”, a feat Americans and their 49-nation military conglomerate—ISAF/NATO could not accomplish over the last 15 years or so.
At a meeting of the eighth round of Pakistan-US Working Group on Security, Strategic Stability and Non- proliferation on May 17, which is part of the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue. American delegation pressed Islamabad to start negotiations on the treaty dealing only with fissile materials’ production cut-off, while ignoring the existing stocks of these materials. Such a partial treaty is aimed at freezing the nuclear status quo to perpetual peril of late entrants like Pakistan. In response, Pakistan underlined its preference for broader Fissile Material Treaty that addresses the asymmetries in existing stocks.
Pakistan has however, assured the US delegation that it would not be the first in its region to resume nuclear testing, and expressed its support for the objectives of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The meeting of the working group was held against the backdrop of recent interceptor missile and secret submarine launched missile tests by India.
The Pakistani side expressed its confidence regarding country’s credentials to become full member of the export control regimes, particularly the NSG and the Missile Technology Control Regime. Pakistan also indicated its interest in cooperation with the US on peaceful applications of the nuclear science in areas such as health, agriculture and water.
Despite Pakistan’s impeccable nuclear security related issues often acknowledged by the US leadership and the IAEA, the US and European media has all along kept the symphony playing to paint Pakistan’s nuclear programme negative. At the same time it invariably turns blind eye to India’s poor nuclear safety and security record. “Although India has taken significant measures to protect its nuclear sites, recent reports suggest that its nuclear security measures may be weaker than those of Pakistan,” a report published by the Harvard Kennedy School stated. In January 2014 Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative ranked India’s nuclear security practices 23rd out of 25 countries, followed by Iran and North Korea.
Progress towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament is being delayed by some countries who advocate abstinence for others but are unwilling to give up their large inventories of nuclear weapons or their modernisation ambitions. Instead of fulfilling their legal disarmament obligations, these States have exclusively pursued non-proliferation with messianic zeal.
Some nuclear weapon states have also concluded discriminatory nuclear cooperation agreements and helped grant waivers in a departure from long held non-proliferation principles. The largest event of the century in the context of horizontal nuclear non-proliferation is Indo-US Agreement 123, which has set the precedent of keeping nuclear power reactors outside IAEA safeguards. The Indo-US nuclear deal provides India with fissile material for at least 50 additional warheads every year sans all other resources. At government level America is making disparate attempt to mainstream India by making it enter the four international strategic regimes by evolving India specific criteria while leaving out Pakistan.
This doublespeak has only aggravated the sense of insecurity among other states. And gaps between legality and reality as well as intent and actions have eroded faith in these processes. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz informed Senate on May 19 that Pakistan is considering to move a resolution in United Nations General Assembly in the next session, urging it to declare the Indian Ocean a “nuclear free zone”. Pakistan is planning to highlight the dangerous implications of India’s plans to nuclearize the Indian Ocean at all relevant international forums. Issue of recent test of India’s advanced air defence missile Ashwin would also be raised with all major powers ‘bilaterally and multilaterally’.
Here, one could recall the fate of similar efforts by Pakistan during 1980s to declare South Asia a nuclear weapon free zone. Pakistan’s new effort of having Indian Ocean declared as nuclear free zone shall also meet similar end because the US is propping up India as a major nuclear power in Indian Ocean to relieve America from the workload of donkey’s chores to contain China.
Earlier, the Modi government had announced that it had picked up the military logistics pact with the US after a hiatus of about 15 years. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said he had reached an “in-principle” agreement with his US counterpart, defence secretary Ashton Carter, on the “Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement” (Lemoa). The Lemoa is an upgraded version of a Cold War leftover of the “Acquisitions and Cross-Servicing Agreement” or “Logistics Support Agreement” that the US originally designed for its NATO allies. Lemoa would be signed in about four weeks. Agreement would give the US military access to Indian military bases. Whatever the title and cover may say, this agreement, in this time and space, is essentially an important component of overall China containment strategy.
Pakistani scientists and defence experts constantly monitor and evaluate the strategic threats that India’s evolving nuclear doctrine can pose to Pakistan’s security and accordingly evolve Pakistan’s strategic response to these threats. Despite limitation of resources, Pakistan has developed a robust nuclear deterrence, which is constantly updated.
Since the 1980s, America is orchestrating a smear campaign against Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Negative tags are floated to demean the programme and every kind of incentive-coercion combination is employed to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear weapons. A contingency plan is in place at Pentagon for militarily intervening and securing Pakistani nukes as and when required—pretext shall be created according to prevailing circumstances of that time.
To meaningfully engage Pakistan in nuclear talks, the US needs to comprehend the spirit of Yum-e- Takbir. That is, Pakistan’s nuclear programme is security driven and is India specific. Route to any meaningful arms control and or disarmament in Pakistan-India context goes to Pakistan via India. America should not expect that while it continues to ignore India’s irresponsible strategic behaviour and remain instrumental in enhance India’s nuclear capabilities and stature, Pakistan could be restrained from developing matching response, what to talk of any roll back.
The Nation May 30, 2016
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy