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Pak-US Nuclear Deal Is a Bad Deal for Pakistan

By Muhammad Umair Arif

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 2, 2015


Ever since the discussion of the “Diplomatic blockbuster” of David Ignatius, there has been a sense of Achievement in the political, intellectual and military circles in Pakistan. It is being hailed as Pakistan’s greatest achievements by some amongst them because that would, maybe, equate us to the Indian-US nuclear deal of 2008. But let us deeply analyze this reality before jumping to any conclusions and celebrations.

What has India got from a US-India nuclear deal

The first and most important aspect of this discussion is to understand the reality of US-India nuclear deal. The discussion of nuclear deal with india that started in 2005, materialized in 2008 has not been able to conclude a single nuclear agreement with America or any other country till 2015. According to G. Balachandran, a consulting fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, “The only nuclear cooperation that India has been able to conclude with any of the countries with whom it has nuclear cooperation agreements is in respect of nuclear fuel.” India had to lower its target of installed nuclear capacity from 63 GW by 2032 to 27.5 GW, as none of the proposed projects have started. Last year, Russia has agreed to setting up 10 nuclear reactors but that has nothing to do with the US-India Nuclear deal. Other than the prestige that comes with the name US-India Nuclear deal, there had been no practical effect of the deal for Indians Energy problems for the last 7 years after signing the deal. The question really arises, are we really dying for such a deal just because of our obsession with India?

What we will loose from a US-Pak nuclear deal

“Possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems,” David Ignatius, an opinion writer for the US-based newspaper said. It does not sound really encouraging now, does it? Peter R. Lavoy, a longtime intelligence expert on the Pakistani nuclear program, with close relations with the country’s military, and who is currently serving on the U.S. National Security Council, is known to be leading the discussions think that “There’s a political dimension with the Shaheen-III that I think is troubling to the US government, and to many other governments of representatives here in the audience, that now you will have the ability to reach many other countries, in the Middle East, for example, that Pakistan didn’t have that capacity in the past.” It is also described in The Washington Post and The New York Times, the American proposals center on Pakistan’s shortest-range missiles and long-range ones. So to sum it up, we will have to reduce our nuclear program to get a deal which might take 3 years to materialize and another 7 years to start discussing about giving us a civilian nuclear reactor. And off course if anything unusual happens, this deal can be taken off by the Americans, like the F-16 deal in the past in which we got wheat for the money of F-16s.   

What we will get from a US-Pak nuclear deal

Maybe, I am too cynical, so lets explore what we can get practically.  US support for a US-Pakistan civilian nuclear agreement, possible membership of 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) by US support and relaxation of Nuclear Suppliers Group export controls.

I have already discussed how beneficial can the US-Pak nuclear agreement be by comparing with the US-India deal. As far as NSG is concerned, for now, the symbolic significance of a place at the NSG carries no strategic weight for Pakistan, as it has explored alternative markets for its civil nuclear program. Pakistan has already been engaged with China, and to some extent with Russia, for its civil nuclear needs. China is involved in construction of at least six nuclear reactors in Pakistan. Wang Xiaotao, a key official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said at a press conference “has assisted the construction of at least six nuclear reactors in Pakistan with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts.” Most Importantly, China has never imposed any conditions on our Military Nuclear program after supporting us in building the civilian nuclear reactors.

There is another angle to this discussion. Even if we get the NSG membership and people start trading with us in the nuclear domain, we will always be looked at with suspicion. Our track record of the AQ Khan episode will always keep us in the spotlight.  For Instance, on October 20, Congressman Ted Poe, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade, urged Obama to not engage in any negotiations regarding a US-Pakistan civil nuclear agreement. "Simply put, Pakistan's current and past record is disqualifying for any consideration by the US to support civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan bilaterally”. I am sure that even if the Americans deal with us and we become an active partner in Nuclear Suppliers Group, they, along with the Indians would continue to blame us and blackmail us and humiliate us in the rest of the world. So this move is going to hurt our international standing in the long run despite all our efforts at strengthening the nuclear safety and security regime.  

Thinking independently and making better choices for Pakistan

Other than the superficial argument, “whatever India wants, we want it too” there is nothing in it for Pakistan in this deal. We need to overcome our obsession with India and realize that we can make far better choices if we think independently for Pakistan. We already have secured a 46 billion dollar deal with China without any “CONDITIONS” from China on our military assets. Major part of the investment deals with resolving the energy crises as well. Apart from that, Pakistan has exceptional potential for Solar, Wind, Coal, Hydro energy options to meet the energy needs and unnecessary pushing for a US nuclear reactor is absolutely redundant for Pakistan.


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