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'Let us buy out Pakistan's N-arsenal for $100 billion'

December 17, 2008 12:19 IST

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An American newspaper columnist has proposed a $100 billion buyout of Pakistan's nuclear arsenals, saying these weapons had become "an inviting target" for Jehadists."

"Let's buy their arsenal," wrote Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal in an op-ed article in which he highlighted the problems Pakistan's atomic programme has caused, especially the situation resulting from the export of nuclear technology by the A Q Khan network.

"...Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has made it an inviting target for the jihadists who blew up Islamabad's [Images] Marriott hotel in September and would gladly blow up the rest of the capital as a prelude to taking it over."

"Since President-elect Barack Obama [Images] has already committed a trillion or so in domestic spending, what's $100 billion in the cause of saving the world," the columnist has suggested.

Stephens, who interviewed Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari [Images] in September when he was participating in the UN General Assembly session, said despite some gains after acquiring a bomb, Pakistan didn't gain greater security.

"Still, give Khan this: Thanks partly to his efforts, a country that has impoverished the great mass of its own people, corruptly enriched a tiny handful of elites, served as a base of terrorism against its neighbours, lost control of its intelligence services, radicalised untold numbers of Muslims in its madrassas, handed the presidency to a man known as Mr. 10 per cent, and proliferated nuclear technology to Libya and Iran (among others) has, nevertheless, made itself a power to be reckoned with congratulations," the article said.

Preventing the disintegration of Pakistan, "perhaps in the wake of a war with India (how much restraint will New Delhi [Images] show after the next Mumbai-style atrocity?)," will be the Obama administration's most urgent foreign-policy challenge, Stephens said.

"This is the deal I have in mind. The government of Pakistan would verifiably eliminate its entire nuclear stockpile and the industrial base that sustains it. In exchange, the US and other Western donors would agree to a $100 billion economic package, administered by an independent authority and disbursed over 10 years, on condition that Pakistan remain a democratic and secular state (no military rulers; no Sharia law).

"It would supplement that package with military aid similar to what the US provides Israel: F-35 fighters, M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters. The US would also extend its nuclear umbrella to Pakistan, just as Hillary  Clinton now proposes to do for Israel."

"A pipe dream? Not necessarily. People forget that the world has subtracted more nuclear powers over the past two decades than it has added: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and South Africa [Images] all voluntarily relinquished their stockpiles in the 1990s. Libya did away with its programme in 2003 when Gadhafi concluded that a bomb would be a net liability, and that he had more to gain by coming to terms with the West," he added.

"The tragedy of Pakistan is that it remains a country that can't do the basics, like make a bicycle chain. If what its leaders want is prestige, prosperity and lasting security, they could start by creating an economy that can make one -- while unlearning how to make the bomb". 

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