DAWN - Opinion; March 29, 2006

Published March 29, 2006

Obstacles to Indo-US N-deal

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh


ACTING with remarkable speed, the Bush administration has submitted to Congress its proposals for changes in American law that would be required to give effect to the agreement that President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached in New Delhi on March 1. It has also brought the proposal to a meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group so that this group of countries with the potential to export nuclear technology can make similar amendments in the guidelines they currently use to govern the export of nuclear and dual-use equipment and technology.

A propaganda offensive has also been launched to highlight the benefits of the agreement and to rebut the charge that the agreement would cause the unravelling of the non-proliferation regime created under the leadership of the US over the past decades, and triggered, ironically, by the Indian testing of a nuclear device in 1974. As an opening gambit in the long negotiations with Congress, the administration has laid down the marker, to its great disadvantage — though it would be pleasing to the Indians — that the agreement must be accepted as it stands since a renegotiation would lead to its unravelling.

Currently, American law provides that the president can exempt any country from the prohibition on exports of nuclear technology and equipment and, if the country is a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) the exemption will take effect if Congress does not pass a joint resolution denying the exemption within 90 days. For countries that are not signatories of the NPT however, Congress has to approve the exemption and can take as long as it wishes to do so.

The changes that the administration has now proposed would exempt India and treat it as though it was a NPT signatory so that the deal can only be blocked if Congress is able to muster the will to pass a joint resolution within 90 days.

In effect, this would mean that Congress would have virtually no oversight and no ability to influence the terms and conditions of the proposed transfer. Apart from the non-proliferation lobby in Congress — there are many influential lawmakers in this group — other legislators are going to be concerned about the infringement on congressional oversight rights and obligations that the vesting of such power in the president would represent.

The more serious issue will be the concerns of the non-proliferators. While the deal was being negotiated many in Congress believed that the bottom line of the American administration would be that the deal would minimize India’s ability to accumulate the material required for manufacturing nuclear weapons. In other words, that most of India’s nuclear reactors, particularly the fast breeder reactors, would be placed under perpetual safeguards, and those that were allowed to remain outside safeguards would not provide material for more than five or six nuclear weapons a year.

It was also assumed that as India’s nuclear programme expanded, with foreign assistance or through indigenous efforts, all the new facilities would be placed under safeguards and would not be allowed to contribute to India’s nuclear weapon building capability. The current agreement does no such thing.

A close perusal of the agreement shows that of the reactors India has under operation or under construction, currently four are already under safeguards — Rajasthan I and II (Canadian origin) and Tarapur I and II (American origin) as will be the two Russian — assisted reactors at Koodakulam.

India has agreed that the research reactor CIRUS (Canadian origin but fuelled in part by heavy water provided by the US and now internationally known as the source of the plutonium clandestinely diverted by India for constructing the nuclear device it exploded in 1974) will be shut down by 2010 while the other research reactor at the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) will be moved out and placed under international safeguards at its new location thus ensuring that BARC itself is not open to international inspection. None of the other currently operating reactors are to be placed under safeguards.

Another facet of the agreement that is cause for concern is that even those reactors that are being placed under safeguards will remain only for as long as the Americans or other members of the NSG continue to supply fuel. In the event of an interruption in the fuel supply the Indians will be free to remove the inspectors and to use the material from the reactors in any fashion that they choose.

It has been calculated by American scientists that with eight nuclear reactors outside safeguards India will be able to accumulate enough spent fuel to produce the plutonium needed for 50 nuclear weapons annually. Other calculations place the figure even higher. Of course, everyone is aware that India’s own limited natural uranium resources will now be available for India’s strategic programme since it will receive fuel from abroad for its civilian safeguarded reactors.

Opponents of the deal have presented the following arguments:

— It will open the door to other nuclear weapon countries cutting similar deals with their proteges — Russia with Iran and China with Pakistan.

— Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, etc, all forsook nuclear ambitions because they were told that there were penalties attached and that civilian nuclear cooperation would go forward only with such countries as had signed the NPT. For them there would be no legal or moral justification for not demonstrating nuclear weapon capability even if this meant opting out of the NPT. Similar considerations would apply even more forcefully in the Middle East where the presence of a nuclearised Israel provides an added incentive. In other words, once the breach has been created there will be many who will wish to drive through it, and there would be little the international community (the West) could do to stop it.

— If India wished to be treated like a nuclear weapon country then it must accept the restrictions the nuclear weapon states have imposed on themselves. All of them, including China, have stopped the production of fissionable material for military purposes. Implicit in this is that even if India has a small stock of fissionable material at this time this stock should be enough to create the minimum nuclear deterrent that India says it wants. At the most, India should keep out of safeguards only a limited number of reactors that would give it the fissionable material for five to six nuclear weapons annually.

— Whatever Pakistan may say now it is inevitable that there will be a nuclear arms race in South Asia. The Pentagon thinking on this was perhaps best reflected in the policy paper issued in January 2001 under the title “Proliferation: Threat and Response”. It said, “Indian and Pakistani strategic programmes continue to be driven by the perception of the other’s effort ..... India and Pakistan are expected to continue improving their nuclear and missile forces. In effect, a slow-speed Indo-Pak nuclear and missile arms race is underway, with consequences that are difficult to predict and potential for spillover beyond the subcontinent.”

It is perhaps instructive from our perspective even if American analysts have not raised it forcefully that during the long negotiations that the Americans conducted with India and Pakistan after the ‘98 nuclear tests to persuade both countries to define and adhere to a minimum nuclear deterrent the American deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, frequently said that during the Cold War the Americans and Russians had spent 5.5 trillion dollars to develop and maintain their nuclear arsenals.

He did not actually say so but it was clear that the “overkill” capacity that both countries developed flowed not from the security needs perceived by strategists but from the pressure that the highly articulate scientists and the industrial — military complex exerted on policymakers. There is every reason to believe that something similar could happen in South Asia.

It is clear that even while touting the virtues of this agreement such as promoting non-proliferation or easing India’s energy shortage — arguments that no one in Congress will buy — the Bush administration will be highlighting the role that this agreement will play in giving India the nuclear clout it needs to be America’s strategic partner in containing China. Will Congress buy this? A recent article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs argues that, “the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy” and that soon the US will be able to “destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike.”

In detailing China’s nuclear capabilities the article says that “China’s entire intercontinental nuclear arsenal consists of 18 stationary single-warhead ICBMs. These are not ready to launch on warning: their warheads are kept in storage and the missiles themselves are unfuelled (China’s ICBMs use liquid fuel, which corrodes the missiles after 24 hours. Fuelling them is estimated to take two hours.)”, and that “given the history of China’s slow-motion nuclear modernization, it is doubtful that a Chinese second-strike force will materialize anytime soon. The United States has a first-strike capability against China today and should be able to maintain it for a decade or more”.

Congressmen and advisers such as former Senator Nunn will be aware that this is not just empty talk but a reflection of the reality that prevails. The United States has or will soon have “nuclear primacy” In these circumstances would it be wise to put at risk this US supremacy by assisting another country — no matter how friendly it is now — that could in future become a counter-weight not to China but in combination with China to American supremacy?

For the moment, the tempo that the administration has sought to build for an early consideration of its proposal by Congress appears to have stalled. Partly this is due to Bush’s diminished political standing, partly to the perception that the Americans have been out-negotiated. What seems clear, however, is that there will be no early consideration and that the possibilities are that it will be on the congressional agenda only next year. It is also likely that as and when it comes up the Congress will subject it to conditions limiting Indian access to fissile material for weapon production.

It appears that the Americans are faced with a similar problem in the 45-nation NSG also. There is no doubt that many of the NSG members cannot afford to ignore American wishes but they will want nevertheless to try and minimise the damage to the non-proliferation regime.

The latest reports suggest that in the Vienna meeting of the NSG held a few days ago the Americans were not able to win support for putting the Indian deal on the agenda. A long battle lies ahead and no one should expect an early resolution. What should South Asia do in the meanwhile? Perhaps we need to ponder whether we want to step on the slippery slope which led the Soviet Union to ruin or to take a page out of the book of our northern neighbour which seems to be doing little to increase its nuclear might, and work out among ourselves a nuclear restraint regime that meets security needs without requiring an ever spiralling arms race.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

How expatriates can help

By Zubeida Mustafa


THE Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP), set up in 2001 as a non-profit support organisation to facilitate philanthropy, has published a report titled Philanthropy by the Pakistani Diaspora in the USA. Based on a survey it conducted in North America in which 631 Pakistani expatriates participated, this report confirms some trends that have been observed over the years.

It also makes some recommendations, though it is not at all clear if the obstacles faced in channelling philanthropy into an institutional charity in Pakistan can be overcome very easily.

Let us take the findings first which have been reported in more generous terms than how they emerge when read with a measure of objectivity. The PCP report describes the Pakistanis in North America — mainly professionals, quite a few being physicians and surgeons — as a “generous, giving and active community”. They donate 250 million dollars in cash and kind every year apart from 43.5 million hours of volunteered time which is given the monetary value of 750 million dollars by the PCP.

The report describes this amount (a total of one billion dollars) as “very impressive”. This is arguable. The cash and kind donations come to barely one per cent of the expatriates’ income. The time volunteered works out to 1.6 hours a week per head for the 500,000 migrants. It would be slightly more if you exclude the children.

But what cannot be denied is that in absolute terms the amount given as philanthropy is quite a big sum. It has, however, not made much of an impact nationally for several reasons. First, only a sum of 100 million dollars (40 per cent) actually comes to Pakistan. Secondly, most of this amount goes directly to individuals in need and not to institutionalized charities.

Hence the question to be asked is why are Pakistani expatriates not willing to give more generously to the country of their origin when they are in a position to do so? The most important factor is, to quote the report, “the chronic lack of trust in the civic sector in Pakistan; over 80 per cent of our survey respondents believe that such organisations are inefficient and dishonest; over 70 per cent feel that they are also ineffective and inattentive to the most pressing problems in Pakistan.”

One cannot deny that corruption is a bane in Pakistan and donors living in Pakistan also like to check before loosening their purse strings for an institution collecting donations. But that does not mean that there are no honest and efficient charities operating in the country that deserve to be helped.

What is understandable is that people living thousands of miles away find it difficult to obtain information about the performance of various institutions, hence they tend to be wary about giving. Information has never been the Pakistanis’ forte.

Another constraint faced by Pakistani Americans is the structural hurdles in transmitting money to Pakistan. After 9/11, American regulations were been tightened and are at times ambiguous about charitable giving abroad. Neither are there any convenient mechanisms to transfer funds to this country or to obtain information about a charity operating in Pakistan. Small wonder the kundi system has been so popular — its success can be attributed to its convenience and informal method.

Charities have also not been able to go about effectively in their fund raising mission. Some of them seeking donations from the expatriate community do not do their homework. They do not obtain exemption from taxes on donations — a powerful motivating factor — and that discourages many would-be philanthropists.

Experience shows that where an infrastructure is in place, funds flow in more easily. For instance, a few charitable organisations, which have representation abroad, are better known among the expatriates. They also manage to attract funds more easily. Thus the Layton Rehmatullah Benevolent Trust and the Edhi Foundation have successfully mobilized the Pakistani expatriate community for philanthropic causes. But this approach would benefit only large charities for small institutions cannot afford to have a representative in every country where Pakistani expatriates live.

In this context, the PCP offers some suggestions. The three key areas that must be addressed are

• Building confidence in Pakistan’s civic sector

• Facilitating mechanisms for charity giving

• Improving outreach on the achievements of the civic sector in Pakistan

Individual organizations can improve their prospects by adopting transparency in their working to inspire confidence in the public. They will also have to disseminate information about themselves. Many are already doing this yet they have failed to reach out effectively to many expatriates abroad given the considerable scope of the work involved.

The report suggests that the PCP could play a facilitating role by developing mechanisms for philanthropy. If the organization is not to become the conduit for funding — which it should not if it doesn’t want to lose its credibility — it should confine its role to being a clearing house of information and one providing guidance to philanthropists. Thus it should study the laws of different countries on the transmission of funds by the Pakistani diaspora to guide philanthropists on how to proceed. The organization could emerge as an important source of knowledge by giving essential but authentic facts about the various charities operating in the country. For instance a donor could be guided on how to do a quick check on a charity he wants to support. Some of the guidelines would be:

• determine the trustworthiness of a charity by checking its documentation

• obtain audited financial information

• study the profile of the organization

• look up the number of beneficiaries, their socio-economic status

• ask for the sources of income — are fees charged

This information should be enough to enable any intending expatriate donor to decide where he feels most comfortable about sending his donation.

The centre steps on sensitive ground when it speaks of the newly coined term “non-profit organization” (NPO). Does this suggest charity in the conventional old fashioned sense when people gave donations on humanitarian grounds? The idea was to help meet the basic needs — for food, health, shelter, education and livelihood — of a person who was unable to sustain himself on account of the failure of society to provide him social justice. But today organisations charging exorbitant fees for their services show themselves as NPOs because they show no profits in their accounts — their earnings being shown as their expenditure on keeping themselves functional. Are they deserving of philanthropy?

There is need to define ‘charity’. Under Indian law it is defined as including ‘relief of the poor — their education, health care and the advancement of any other object of general public utility’.

The PCP would do well to study the Indian diaspora’s giving pattern. India has a long tradition of philanthropy and its diaspora has made a big impact on India’s national life. Cultural traits determine a person’s approach to philanthropy and the Muslims of South Asia have not been known for it. A beginning could now be made.

The Pakistani diaspora in North America should be encouraged to make donations to the institutions that really cater to the needs of the poor. Many Americans of Pakistani origin have made a mark in life after graduating from public sector universities in Pakistan. Should they not repay their debt and help these universities in some way?

The health professionals who studied at the public sector medical colleges and are now doing so well in life should be helping their alma mater. After all, these are the institutions that really cater to the needs of the poor. One has to visit them to believe it.

As for the time the Pakistani diaspora volunteers could make an impact if people, especially health professionals and teachers, would return home every year to work for a few weeks to teach and train their own fellow professionals who are not affluent and could never hope to pay for good education abroad. The expatriates could finance the studies of a student who cannot pay for himself.

As for the PCP, it should encourage expatriates to play a direct role in supporting such institutions that really benefit the poor. The problem is that the rampant commercialism, that has overtaken the social sector in the hands of private entrepreneurs, has marginalised the poor. Even philanthropy seems to be sidelining them.

Being a religious person

By Hafizur Rahman


MY wife, God bless her, used to ask the most difficult questions and wanted the answers at once. One of really awkward ones (probably provoked by the current wave of religiosity) was about the phenomenal increase during the last 25 years or so in the number of people who say their prayers regularly.

There is no doubt that mosques were never so crowded as they are now. In private too, many more Muslims observe the ritual sincerely and not just to show off.

But why is it (she wanted to know) that there has been no corresponding increase in goodness, honesty, loyalty, compassion, tolerance and other virtues which prayer is supposed to promote among the followers of Islam?

What she said was true. During the years of General Ziaul Haq’s Islamization, many people, devout Muslims otherwise, who never participated in congregational prayers out of sheer laziness, took to joining the gatherings in mosques, as also saying their prayers at home.

I’m sure it has done them good. Prayer has a soothing effect on most people and even those who are not blessed with the finer instincts are somehow metamorphosed, at least for a while. Except those, of course, who, like senior civil servants in Islamabad and the provincial capitals, who adopted the practice just to please the ruler of the time.

You may recall that General Zia was in the habit of spending a full day in various federal ministries and divisions by turn. Inevitably, the Zuhr prayer fell during the hours he spent being briefed by the staff, and the congregation would always include a large number of those who confined themselves normally to the Fajr prayer or never said their prayers at all.

For nearly five years I was associated with the Wafaqi Mohtasib’s office in Islamabad. Once when the general passed a good four hours with us I was amused to see our officers falling over one another to get as close to him as possible for the Zuhr congregation. They had never thought of getting so close to their God by earning His pleasure and blessings.

One of our additional secretaries in that office always boasted of his free-thinking ways. He was most anxious to be seen by the general, probably to dispel reports that he was a non-believer. I don’t know if the general was impressed or not, but he would certainly have been impressed if he had been told that, in his eagerness to please him, the officer had joined the prayer without the prescribed ablution.

The only person I know who never made an exhibition of his adherence to prayer was a brother-in-law who retired some years ago as an army brigadier, and died recently. We were together for days on end; he never missed any of the five prayers, and yet I never saw him on the “musalla”. At prayer time he quietly slipped away from our company and came back after doing the needful without anyone knowing where he had been to. And he was always a pleasurable companion, full of fun and humour and Punjabi jokes. There was nothing dry or stick-in-the-mud about him. And he was a genuinely good man in all the best meanings of the word.

As for what my wife used to say about the falling standards of public morality, I don’t have to add anything to reinforce her complaint. Everybody is full of it, and newspapers every day lament the downward slide. Corruption at every level, absence of personal integrity, prevalence of crime, murder, sectarian killing, torture, gang-rape, dishonouring women, insatiable greed — all vices in the eyes of the law and the shariat — are breaking previous records. I don’t have to stress the obvious.

As usual my wife came out with the answer herself. This time she didn’t wait for me to fumble with my explanation. Her theory was that we in Pakistan (and other Muslims elsewhere too) say our prayers out of sheer fright. It is the dread of retribution, in this world or the next, that makes us remember God, and most of the time we turn to Him for selfish reasons.

Also (she added) we think of him only as Jabbar and Qahhar, as the unforgiving Almighty who can strike us down at any time for our bad deeds. We mistakenly think that the only way to remain out of reach of His avenging hand is to go on saying our prayers and observing the fasts and reciting the Quran mechanically, without acting on it of course.

It is true that very few Muslims are religious because they have the concept of God as the Maker, the Life-Giver, the Rahman and the Raheem. According to my wife, the worst aspect of the matter is that in the minds of most people, there is no conflict between the bad, the evil and the anti-social on the one hand and the practice of decency, humanitarianism and tolerance of diverse faiths (as prescribed by Islam) on the other.

It is as if these two shades of human activity and behaviour have nothing to do with each other, both existing in separate watertight compartments. It is because of this twisted thinking that the prevailing adherence to rituals does not produce a corresponding goodness in us. Many of us don’t even know what the words of the prayer mean, and I have seen highly religious people spurning the hungry little importunate boys and girls in the street with contempt and scorn. May God forgive their heartlessness! There is one thing that all my readers must have noticed. A group is seated together engaged in some worldly matter. The time for prayer is announced by the Azaan. Those who say their prayers regularly get up, call for a “musalla”, go through the ritual perfunctorily, without any apparent spiritual involvement, and after the concluding “salaam” are back within two minutes to their mundane business.

No sentiment or emotion seems to attach to their devotions which look as involuntary as any other daily chore. How can this ritualistic manner of prayer produce what I call a corresponding goodness?



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