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Pakistan's Nuclear Command Authority, presided over by General Pervez Musharraf [Images], met in Islamabad August 2, just a day prior to the publication of the text of the forty-year 123 Agreement, which has paved the way for nuclear energy cooperation between India and the USA and an end to global nuclear sanctions against India by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The Nuclear Command Authority, which deals exclusively with command and control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, observed: 'The objective of strategic stability in South Asia and the global nonproliferation regime would have been better served if the United States had considered a package approach for Pakistan and India, the two non-NPT nuclear weapons states, with a view to promoting restraints while ensuring that the legitimate needs of both countries for civil nuclear power generation are met.'
The Command Authority chose to ignore the fact that its nuclear scientists ranging from Dr A Q Khan to Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood have earned international notoriety for reckless proliferation of nuclear weapons designs, and for their contacts with Al Qaeda [Images].
It also failed to note that while Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme is entirely India-centric, India's nuclear weapons programme addresses wider security concerns.
On the same day as the Nuclear Command Authority meeting, US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns had some very harsh comments to make about Pakistan. Burns said Pakistan had to get its act together in dealing with terrorists operating from its territory. He alleged that while Al Qaeda was operating from the tribal areas of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province with impunity, Taliban leaders were comfortably ensconced in the capital of the Baluchistan Province, Quetta.
He added that Pakistan's banks were laundering money to terrorist outfits, and that it was for these reasons that the US Congress had made aid to Pakistan conditional on certification that Pakistan was not playing games with terrorist outfits operating from its soil.
Alluding to American concerns about the dangers of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, Burns said that as Pakistan has nuclear capability, 'We hope that any future government in Pakistan is going to be stable, is going to be friendly to the US, and a judicious custodian of its nuclear arsenal.'
Pakistan's reaction to the Indo-US nuclear deal is not going to carry any weight in most world capitals. Washington has long asserted that the 123 Agreement, in fact, restricts India's nuclear weapons capabilities as a number of nuclear facilities, which are now free from safeguards, will come under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Major nuclear suppliers like Russia [Images], France [Images] and the UK endorse this view, and even the Australians have agreed in principle to sell uranium ore to India. It is going to take Pakistan some time to realize that as a nation branded as the epicentre of global terrorism, whose scientists peddle nuclear weapons designs and centrifuge enrichment equipment as though they were selling potato chips, it is hardly going to be viewed with favour till it sets its own house in order.
Despite these developments, New Delhi and its international partners will do well to remember that the Pakistan regime is not going to give up easily on its efforts to scuttle India's efforts to secure an end to global nuclear sanctions. It is no secret that there have been close consultations between China and its 'all weather friend' Pakistan, to put forward the argument that Pakistan should be treated in exactly the same manner as India on the issue of nuclear cooperation.
After all, less than two years ago, in April 2005, China commenced construction of a second 325 mw nuclear power reactor in Chashma. This is apart from un-safeguarded plutonium facilities now under construction near Chashma, in Khushab, with Chinese assistance.
China will seek to get together with some other members of the 45-member NSG who are averse to nuclear cooperation with India, to deny India cooperation in civilian nuclear energy.
How strongly China proceeds with this effort -- given its claims of wanting friendly relations and even a 'strategic partnership' with India -- remains to be seen.
G Parthasarathy, India's former High Commissioner to Pakistan, spoke to Sheela Bhatt.
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