"The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with the nuclear test, does not view assistance -- even sizable assistance to their own entities -- as a trade-off for national security vis-a-vis India". US Ambassador Anne Patterson, September 23, 2009Pakistan has the world's fastest growing nuclear arsenal today in the midst of a fierce insurgency waged against the Pakistani state by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. How should the world respond? Should the response be to further isolate and sanction Pakistan as argued by some Indian and western scholars? Or, should the US and its Western allies engage with Pakistan by accepting it as a legitimate nuclear state and admitting it as a full member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group?
TV Paul, a scholar of Indian origin at McGill University, has clearly not worked nor likely to work as explained well by former US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson. The alternative, as advocated in a new book "Overcoming Pakistan's Nuclear Dangers" by former US diplomat Mark Fitzpatrick, is to recognize Pakistan's legitimacy as a nuclear-armed state and work with it to limit the risks of nuclear proliferation in future.
Ambassador Fitzpatrick began by exploring why the West has been so obsessed with stopping Iran's nuclear program and not Pakistan's. In the end, he came to the conclusion that Pakistan must be provided "a path to normalizing its nuclear program" in the same way that India was with the US-India nuclear deal. Here's how he describes it on the website of London-based Institute of International Strategic Studies (IISS):
The book was inspired by fellow Londoner Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, who asked in a June 2012 column why the West was so obsessed with stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons when, ‘by any sensible measure, Pakistani nukes are much more worrying’. I suppose I was one of those who seemed obsessed with Iran, so Rachman’s words hit home. Let’s take a look at Pakistan, I decided.
Successive chapters of my book examine in detail the dangers Rachman ticked off, plus a few more. I concluded that some of the concerns about Pakistan are exaggerated. While the prospect for nuclear terrorism cannot be dismissed, the government’s efforts to ensure the security of its nuclear programme garner too little attention, and compare favourably with India’s nuclear security management. In the ten years since the leakage of the nation’s nuclear secrets masterminded by A.Q. Khan, lessons have been learnt and reforms adopted.
Other concerns get too little attention. As a nuclear wonk, I cannot help but fixate on Pakistan’s veto over negotiations to ban fissile material production and the nation’s move away from signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The most worrisome danger, though, is the prospect for nuclear war in the subcontinent.
One cannot write about Pakistan’s nuclear programme without examining the ways that it is motivated by India’s actions, and perceptions thereof. Therefore, the manuscript is about more than Pakistan. One key chapter assesses the South Asian arms race. Although it pales in comparison with the nuclear excesses of the Cold War, the strategic competition in South Asia is potentially destabilising.
In the conclusions, I offer a policy suggestion for the West that will be controversial. Pakistan, I argue, should be offered a path to normalising its nuclear programme. This recommendation did not sit well with one of the statesmen who, before reading it, had agreed to write a back-cover blurb commending my book. Having vehemently opposed making an exception for India, allowing it to benefit from nuclear cooperation while outside the confines of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he had to back out because he objected to the idea of creating a second such hole in the NPT for Pakistan.
His is a respectable opinion. It had also been my view when I started the book project. If there is one tenet I have taken to heart at the IISS, however, it is that analysis should guide one’s research direction. I reached my conclusion with more surprise than enthusiasm.
I am looking forward to explaining more about my analysis in upcoming book launches in Washington, London, Geneva, Vienna and Islamabad.
In spite of the West's nuclear sanctions, Pakistan has managed to develop and build nuclear weapons using both uranium and plutonium since the 1990s. The country also has built solid-fueled and liquid-fueled missiles of various ranges from tactical to strategic. It has built multiple reactors at Khushab to produce large amounts of plutonium for its growing nuclear arsenal.
On the civilian nuclear side, Pakistan has acquired four 300 MW nuclear plants at Chashma. Two of these are currently operating and two are under construction. Three 1200 MW newer plants are being supplied by China for installation at Karachi as it ramps up its nuclear power plant manufacturing business. The West has essentially given away this civil nuclear business to China on a silver platter.
The West's decades-long nuclear sanctions on Pakistan have clearly not worked to stop the country. It's time to try a different approach along the lines of what Fitzpatrick advocates If the West follows Fitzpatrick's advice and admits Pakistan to the exclusive international nuclear club called "Nuclear Suppliers Group" (NSG), the US and Europe will have a better chance of persuading Pakistan to agree to signing Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) when India also agrees to these international treaties. These two treaties are the cornerstone of the West's efforts to limit development, proliferation and growth of nuclear weapons stockpiles. In return, Pakistan will have access to the West's advanced civil nuclear technology and materials which it needs to deal with the nation's deepening energy crisis. It will be a win-win deal for both sides.
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