Pak-US Relations: No Room for Illusions
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari


President Bush's visit to South Asia was all one expected it to be, although the level of intimacy he achieved with India went far beyond expectations. In Pakistan, a lot of time was devoted to a visit that in the end produced little of long-term strategic value for the country -- no matter what spin one puts on it. But why do we always have expectations from the US when they consistently make it clear that these will be refuted. In the present context, the most painful example was the nuclear issue.
Despite consistent statements from US officialdom -- right from the top down -- that Pakistan could never be treated to a deal similar to the Indo-US nuclear deal, we were being told by various utterances from Scherezade Hotel that we would be demanding such a deal and it could actually happen. A delusional air surely hangs heavy in various corridors here!
Of course, the US arguments for sustaining this differential treatment on the nuclear issue do not hold in any rational discussion given India's formal nuclear cooperation with Iran and the Saddam regime as well as its scientists' work in Iranian facilities, but then rationality has never been a strong point of US policies in this region. In any case, President Bush tried to put the delinking of India's nuclear status from that of Pakistan's in as polite a form as he could muster: As he put it, "Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories. So as we proceed forward, our strategy will take in effect those well-known differences". Apart from the fact that he conveniently forgot that the two countries histories are also interlinked, he was right in stating that our nuclear histories are different because India broke the nuclear taboo in this region and it is India that has an extensive nuclear agenda as well as a questionable record in terms of nuclear cooperation officially with regimes like the Saddam regime! So is India being rewarded for its nuclear ambitions and past shenanigans?
Even more galling from the Pakistani standpoint, even on investment and market access opportunities, nothing was formalized. At the end of the day there were many promises and a commitment to a strategic dialogue at mid-level seniority, but nothing concrete. There can be no delusions as to where Pakistan stands with the US: We have an issue-specific strategic cooperation on the issue of terrorism. Beyond that, the US seeks an intrusive role in our domestic polity -- be it education or our political structures. Much has already been written on the Bush visit to Pakistan but there is nothing new or substantive for Pakistan that one can discuss. The only substantive agreement was the Declaration on Principles relating to the Integrated Cargo/Container Control Program (IC3), which is part of the anti-WMD and anti-terror agenda of the US. Even the issue of US forces violating Pakistan's sovereignty was ignored in terms of an expression of regret, let alone an apology, despite the fact that President Bush focused primarily on the "war on terror". Even the Bush body language in Islamabad was in marked contrast to the gushing and euphoric body language we saw in India. But why was anyone expecting anymore?
On Kashmir, where many Pakistanis went into a state of heady expectations after the Bush remarks to the Indian media prior to his visit, Bush clearly reversed into the traditional US posturing by the time he arrived in Pakistan from India. So on that count, too, it was clear that the US was not prepared to so much as put India in an even mildly irritable mood. Thankfully, President Musharraf also sought only US "facilitation" rather than mediation -- the latter portending dire results for Pakistan in the face of the new Indo-US relationship.
Far more important, especially in the long term, is the Indo-US nuclear deal. While the US talks of declining its relationship with India from its relationship with Pakistan, this delinkage in the nuclear field is going to have serious repercussions for Pakistan, especially when seen in the broader context of the US-India military pact with its missile defense component. In fact, the single most critical factor to come from the Bush visit is the Indo-US nuclear deal -- which was preceded by a nuclear agreement between France and India.
Effectively, the US has killed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). After all, any nuclear assistance to India, even in the civilian field, directly contravenes the NPT. Such assistance also contravenes the US Non-Proliferation Act, but the US can alter that. However, it cannot alter the NPT unilaterally so it has simply decided to kill it in a most brazen fashion. The global non-proliferation agenda is dead as a result of US unilateralism and total disregard for international treaties. Also, by allowing India a delinkage between its military and civilian facilities -- with India deciding which is which -- the US has accepted India de facto into the nuclear club. Pakistan remains outside and can now be targeted in the future on its nuclear program. Not that we cannot hold our own -- but it will be a source of future unwarranted threat/political pressure.
To make its rejection of the NPT even starker, the US has also given out its decision to retain its nuclear arsenal and to bolster it further -- thereby writing off Article 6 of the NPT. It is in this context that the US and Britain conducted a joint sub-critical nuclear experiment (February 23), Krakatau, at the Nevada test site. This has been followed by a statement from Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration declaring that "the United States will, for the foreseeable future, need to retain both nuclear forces and the capabilities to sustain and modernize those forces".
Nor is the Indo-US nuclear deal and the US formal abandonment of disarmament significant only for Pakistan. There will be consequences in terms of how the US now challenges Iran's nuclear program. After all, having laid the NPT to rest, how can there be any rationalization of taking the Iran nuclear issue to the UNSC? Also, unless the IAEA critiques the Indo-US nuclear deal, how can it further the goals of non-proliferation? Or is there now going to be a formal acceptance of the discriminatory approach to non-proliferation where only certain states' will be targeted for their WMD programs, while everyone else can continue to develop their WMD totally unchecked. After all, that is the signal that has been given to India in terms of its fissile material and nuclear weapons development. If one contrasts the manner in which the US is dealing with North Korea, where dialogue is being sought to resolve the nuclear issue, and Iran, one can make a valid assumption that it is the programs of Muslim states that will be targeted in the future.
In hindsight, Pakistan should have taken note of the Bush reference to its nationals as "Paks" in his opening statement to the Indian media in Washington. That would have better prepared many in Islamabad for the Bush visit. It would certainly have removed all delusional notions.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)

 


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