The US deep state’s rethinking
13 October, 2015
By Mohammad Jamil
David Ignatius, an opinion writer for The Washington Post, in a recent treatise, was of the view that the US had decided to work out a nuclear deal with Pakistan akin to the deal with India. There are reports or rumours suggesting that Pakistan will agree to some restrictions on its nuclear programme and weapons’ delivery systems, which are India specific. Ignatius reported or has been asked to throw a feeler to see Pakistan’s reaction on whether it will agree not to deploy missiles capable of reaching beyond a certain range. If the deal goes through, Pakistan will get US support for a waiver by the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). One does not know why the author, while apparently building a case for Pakistan, wrote: “The White House is exploring what could be a diplomatic blockbuster: possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems.”
Such remarks may create doubts about the sincerity of purpose behind offering Pakistan a civil nuclear agreement akin to the one signed with India. It is highly unlikely that Pakistan will accept any stringent conditions, as it has never compromised its nuclear programme and delivery system even in the worst of times. However, the US deep state seems to be rethinking its policy towards Pakistan after having realised that Pakistan is of crucial importance and cannot be ignored. As mentioned in the report, many meetings have been held between Pakistan and the US in this regard, and David Ignatius has not said anything new but made it public. Of course, the offer has come in the wake of a recent surge of Taliban violence in Afghanistan, building pressure on the US to address the issues it evaded a decade ago.
The proposed agreement will allow Pakistan to use nuclear technology for energy generation and commercial purposes, help solve energy problems and enable it to be a member of the NSG, a coveted position. Pakistan, however, can learn lessons from the US-India civil nuclear deal. India faced opposition to the deal in regards to concerns about liability, threats to Indian sovereignty and the prospects of stopping nuclear-related supplies if India did not fall in line with what the US wanted. Internationally, there were voices against the Indo-US nuclear deal terming it against the letter and spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Although the deal was done by the Bush administration primarily to give a boost to its nuclear industry, differences marred the deal and the US could not benefit to the extent it expected. It took quite a while to overcome differences over issues like reprocessing and uninterrupted supply of fuel.
The two countries signed a deal in 2008 giving India access to civilian nuclear technology but it was held up by US concerns over India’s strict laws on liability in the event of a nuclear accident. The US views India as a vast market and potential counterweight to China's assertiveness in Asia but, at the same time, it has apprehensions that India may use fuel covertly for weapons purposes. It is yet to be seen as to the US demand on tracking the whereabouts of material supplied to the country, which was meant to ensure that India does not divert nuclear materials to nuclear weapons’ production. Having said that, it appears that hypocrisy, strategic interests and greed of the US and the west for approximately $ 100 billion was victorious, and international covenants and laws were trampled upon.
Following the NSG waiver, India signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, France, the UK, South Korea, Canada, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia. However, given the constraints on any agreement imposed by New Delhi’s civil nuclear liability law, it is unclear whether US companies will conclude any reactor supply deals with India. In Russia, France, Germany and Japan etc, the state provides sovereign guarantee to the suppliers, whereas the US Export-Import Bank under no circumstances provides such a guarantee. In this backdrop, US companies will not conclude any deal with India, as in case of any malfunctioning or mishap they will have to bear the brunt. The US nuclear industry has looked abroad for business as demand in the US has fallen. But without the Export-Import Bank’s backing, it will be harder for US companies to seal nuclear deals abroad.
The fact remains that the pact between the US and India exempts military facilities and stockpiles of nuclear fuel from scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN watchdog. India has remained outside the international nuclear mainstream since it misused Canadian and US peaceful nuclear assistance to conduct its 1974 nuclear bomb test, refused to sign the nuclear NPT and conducted additional nuclear tests in 1998. But the US and the west want to sell weapons and materials, and India has cash to buy those weapons. Pakistan also has a dubious past in the light of information about Abdul Qadeer Khan having been involved in proliferation. This seems to be one of the reasons that the US has equated India and Pakistan, and decided to offer a civil nuclear deal to Pakistan. Secondly, the US believes that Pakistan has taken adequate measures to control terrorism in Waziristan and elsewhere.
Thirdly, the US does not believe in the propaganda by the Afghan government that Pakistan was behind the Kunduz and other recent Taliban attacks. Fourth, looking at what happened in Kunduz and at Nangarhar, there is a realisation in the US that Afghan forces are no match for the Taliban or Islamic State (IS) fighters. Finally, if relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan remain strained, militant outfits are likely to benefit from the absence of shared intelligence. It has to be mentioned that the US and NATO forces — the world’s best fighting machine — also could not achieve their objective, hence expecting from Afghan forces to rein in or defeat the Taliban is asking too much of them. The US expects that in the near future there is going to be chaos and more bloodshed in Afghanistan. Therefore, to keep Pakistan away could be detrimental to its interests.
The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org