US-Pakistan nuclear deal? India concerned, asks US to rethink


The US-Pakistan nuclear deal? Former US President George Bush had dismissed the idea as fantastic, but with speculation swirling about an India-like nuclear deal for Pakistan during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington, India is predictably worried.

Airing apprehensions over a probable civilian nuclear agreement between the US and Pakistan, India has asked the US to consider Pakistan’s track record on proliferation before taking any decision on a nuclear deal with Pakistan. “All I would say is whosoever is examining that particular dossier should be well aware of Pakistan’s track record in the area of proliferation,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi.

India’s anxieties are more than justified as Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is aimed at its Asian neighbor. Back in 2006, the then US President George Bush had ruled out any civilian nuclear agreement with Pakistan after Pakistan had asked for a deal on similar lines that the US had struck with India. “I explained that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories,” Mr. Bush had famously said during his visit to Islamabad. India got the civil nuclear deal based on its impeccable non-proliferation track record, Mr Swarup underlined “That is the reason the US gave us the 123 agreement in 2005 and that is why we got an NSG waiver in 2008. Pakistan’s track record is completely different, so we hope that will taken into account,” Mr Swarup added.

The media is replete with reports that a civilian nuclear agreement between Pakistan and US is being considered by the Obama administration ahead of Mr  Sharif’s visit to Washington later in October. Any deal with Pakistan on similar lines as that of India is likely to create major differences between India and the US. The India-US deal was transformational and was part of a larger construct of spurring the rise of India as a balancing power in Asia. The reasoning of the Obama administration behind considering a similar deal to Pakistan is intriguing, to say the least.

Washington has had a conflicted relationship with Islamabad, largely due to the role of Pakistan-based groups’ role in fomenting terrorism and extremism in the region. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken strongly against Pakistan’s support to terror groups. “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard,” she had said.  

Terrorism emanating from Pakistan has been a shared concern for both India and the US. The first-ever strategic and commercial dialogue between India and the US culminated in a joint statement on terrorism and underlines the joint resolve by both sides to tackle the “the threat posed by entities such as Al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company, and the Haqqani Network, and other regional groups that seek to undermine stability in South Asia.” The statement also called for Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack, and condemn the July 27, 2015 terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab, and August 5, 2015, attack in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir.

Against this backdrop, it’s not clear what has triggered a change in thinkingin Washington DC about considering a nuclear deal for Pakistan.

If a nuclear deal between the US and Pakistan were to materialise, it could become a major irritant in the relations between India and US and expose the hollowness of all that talk of the defining partnership of the 21st century.  Mr Obama is the first American President to visit India twice. He hasn’t visited Pakistan so far during his seven-year tenure in office.

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