Friday July 01, 2022

Discriminating a nuclear power

March 11, 2016

Weighing against two recent statements of foreign secretaries; one coming from Pakistan’s Foreign Office and the other oozing out from the US secretary of State about Pakistan’s nuclear programme, it is not difficult to cast a reflection that there are ground reality of two opposing positions and divergence of interests between two countries on this particular issue. This disagreement of outlook at an important issue is of the same magnitude and proportion which exists between Pakistan and India for long.

The US seems inflexible to a level of visible tilt towards India in its standpoint and intention to even consider Pakistan’s legitimate position demanding indiscriminate handling in comparison with Indian nuclear facilitation. Pakistan naturally views negatively; and must continue to do so for rational reasons, this stance of American government’s glaring favouritism towards India and unjustifiable demands for doing more from Pakistan to a juncture where the country will suffer irreversibly especially in the presence of decades long geopolitical disputes, more importantly Kashmir, water and other irritants like Siachin etc. Pakistan must not dither anymore to continue raising concerns to the US to stop subsidising appalling Indian enterprises that undermine Pakistan’s national interests. At the same time Pakistan must also assure the US and international community that Pakistan will not resist to accept conditions related to nuclear programme indiscriminately at par with India.

The US concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear systems generally are about nuclear proliferation or falling weapons and technology into the hands of terrorists. But the conclusions drawn from the events and declarations including official statements at the termination of previous three Nuclear Security Summits, fourth is in pipeline in Washington at the end of this month, hardly reflected aspersions on Pakistan’s security and safety measures because the US as well as other participating countries barring few, were evidently convinced and satisfied that Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security standards are above board as compared to any other country including India. The US officials claim to also have inclusive awareness that Pakistan’s nuclear activities, either improving launching capability or developing or deploying short range weapons, are insistently Indian centric for historical but incontrovertible reasons. Despite this fact the US is adamant to facilitate India for Nuclear Supplier Group waiver while blocking similar bequest for Pakistan’s nuclear status.

IAEA devised or UN articulated nuclear related conditionalities are equally ‘violated’ by two countries, in effect by Israel too, but pressures are directed towards Pakistan alone to take lead in accepting curbs without questioning Indian defiance and disregard for international protocols. India has remained an aggressor particularly against Pakistan and its neighbouring smaller states with probability of belligerence in future; in such a situation qualifying India for nuclear facilitation including unprecedented waivers for NSG membership, is glaringly discriminatory and petrifying from Pakistan’s threat perception. This will not only allow India to increase its fissile material and over all nuclear capacity but confidence to a level of arrogance hence disturbing the strategic stability in South East Asia while potentially challenging other global powers in future leading to a fragile nuclear equilibrium globally.

In taking policy decisions the US ought to not over look the facts about Indian nuclear vulnerabilities a propos Pakistan’s nuclear programme. There is a history of incidences of nuclear accidents in India whereby two to three tons of heavy water leaked out of an atomic reactor in western India on August 5 during late eighties resulting into shutting down of one of the power plants. Similarly methyl isocyanite, a toxic gas, seeped out from the Bhopal based Union Carbide Insecticide Plant, killing more than 2000 and injuring 150000 people. In another incident during 1992, four tons of heavy water was spilt out at Rajasthan nuclear power plant. From proliferation angle, Pakistan has taken long lasting measures but there exist certain weaknesses in India. In late nineties India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seized eight kilograms of uranium from three scientist in Chennai, nuclear material was stolen from an atomic research centre. American TV channel CNN reported back in 2003 that an Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd, shipped ten consignments of sensitive equipment entailing titanium vessels and centrifuge pumps to Iraq. During 2005, the US imposed sanctions on two Indian firms for selling missile technology to Iran in violation of India’s commitment to prevent nuclear proliferation. One of the India’s leading nuclear scientists was reported missing mysteriously that provoked fears of proliferating classified and sensitive information related to nuclear technology.

This all should lead the US to revisit its perception and must look at Pakistan as a balancing chip rather than a spoiler. The US must also welcome Pakistan National Command Authority's (NCA) recent resolve on the security and safety of nuclear technology, and a warranty to ill-founded mistrust in Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Pakistan has manifestly wiped out terrorists from its troubled areas with definite resolve of purging all brands of violent terrorism and as it is acknowledged by both political and military stalwarts of the US fending off the alarmist stories concerning militants' threat vis-à-vis access to nuclear weapons. Pakistan needs to be convinced not through coercive and discriminatory means but with a balancing view and indiscriminate process in the nuclear arena.