The Writing on the Wall
By Dr Shireen M Mazari


Given that most Pakistani leaders in the past, including those with "heavy" electoral mandates, have tolerated all manner of insults simply for a "photo op" with the US President, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz deserves credit for taking the difficult decision to cancel his visit to the US as was the need of the hour. Not that this is the first instance in which we have chosen to assert our own national interest and dignity - after all, we have stood our ground on Iraq and also, so far, on the Iran pipeline project. But the Aziz cancellation came at a critical time and was in response to the mere 30-minute photo op that the US President had offered -- this in the immediate aftermath of the Indian Premier's highly touted visit which brought the US and India into strategic embrace.
In fact, it would have been absurd for our Premier to continue with his US visit given that even for the most obtuse writing on the wall regarding the US and its relationship with India is only too clear. Preceding the Indian Premier's visit to Washington, India and the US signed a 10-year defense agreement, which has already been discussed earlier in these columns. We now see a unique nuclear agreement between India and the US, which effectively puts paid to the international non-proliferation agenda, since it effectively recognizes India's nuclear-weapon status. It does so by seeking to separate Indian military nuclear facilities from the civilian facilities, which India, as a quid pro quo, will now place under IAEA safeguards. Linked to all this is the US commitment to provide nuclear technological assistance to India.
For US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns to declare that all this was done in the case of India but could not probably be done in the case of Pakistan was because "India has a record of non-proliferation which is exceptional; very strong commitment to protection of fissile material, other nuclear materials and nuclear technology; and there is a transparency about India's program, which has been welcomed." Now, we know the Americans have distorted the English language, but how is India's non-proliferation record "exceptional"? In 1975, India signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran and began helping in the completion of the Bushehr plant between 1980-1983, including the sending of nuclear scientists and engineers to Iran in November 1982. In 1991, despite US opposition, India negotiated the sale of a 10-megawatt nuclear reactor to Iran and, as we all know, Dr Prasad worked in Bushehr after he retired in July 2000 as head of the Nuclear Corporation of India. It is no wonder that Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, visited New Delhi for talks with the Indian Prime Minister in February 2004!
And that is not all. In 1992, India also supplied thiodyglycol, and other chemicals, to Iran; and in 1993, United Phosphorous of India supplied Iran with 30 tones of trimethyl-phosphite. It is also known that an Indian company exported chemicals to Iraq for Saddam's missile program and a director of that company, Hans Raj Shiv, was under arrest in New Delhi. And no one is talking much about the presence of retired Indian nuclear scientists in Libya. Is this an exceptional non-proliferation record?
As for a strong commitment to protection of fissile material, there is a record of nuclear thefts and missing fissile material in India, including an ISSI study based primarily on Indian sources, which is being sent to educate Mr Burns. He is, of course, correct on India's transparency in terms of its nuclear weapons program. Since 1974, India has made no effort to conceal its desire for a nuclear-weapons capability. And yet the world merely turned a blind eye to this "transparent" nuclear ambition. So, one can assume now that the US is applauding such ambitions as long as they are transparent!
Please, Mr Burns and others in the US Administration, stop handing us a load of rubbish in terms of why the US has chosen to undermine its own non-proliferation agenda and give effective recognition to India's nuclear status. Some of us had expressed a fear, all along, that the US would seek to delink India's nuclear status from Pakistan's -- giving legitimacy to the former while targeting the latter. This has now come to pass. It is indeed ironic that the US, which was in the forefront in the creation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and in pushing for full-scope safeguards and enlargement of the NSG's list of sensitive items, now wants to modify the same rules and accommodate India as a "special case".
India has been quick in moving ahead and targeting Pakistan's nuclear program by raising concerns about its command and control. Given that Pakistan's National Command Authority (NCA) has been in place far longer than India's, and is the most publicly explained NCA, it is now clear that India has now started on the road of seeking to undermine Pakistan's nuclear capability. This is a dangerous game for India to draw the US into because it should be clear to all and sundry that Pakistan has sacrificed too much to allow anyone to rollback this capability. As for the outcry of extremists, given that the BJP controlled India's nuclear program till recently, India should look inwards to ensure that these extremists who conducted the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat do not come to power again.
In fact, India has acquired a new sense of recklessness after the Singh visit to Washington. Indian forces have begun deliberate targeting and killing of innocent teenagers in Occupied Kashmir -- the latest being on Sunday, July 24, when three teenage boys were shot dead and one seriously wounded. Also, India has adopted a new belligerency towards Pakistan on the Kashmir front while attempting to gradually extricate itself from the pipeline project. Despite Minister Ayer's reassurances, Pakistan should be alert to the possibility that RAW would like to create an incident which would not only provide India with a face-saving exit strategy out of the pipeline project, but also undermine the project as a whole -- a major aim of the US at present.
In view of these developments, Pakistan should re-evaluate US intent towards Pakistan -- including that in terms of its nuclear status. Undoubtedly, the US having de-linked India from Pakistan on the nuclear issue, one should expect a more concerted and overt program targeting Pakistan's nuclear assets… (The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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