ISLAMABAD: Pakistan wants to join the nuclear mainstream, but the cost of achieving that status, at least according to what is being suggested by western think tanks, could be prohibitively high in terms of the country’s security.

“Expecting Pakistan to compromise for being mainstreamed is wishful,” said Zahir Kazmi, a director at the Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs (ACDA) section of the Strategic Plans Division at a roundtable organised by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) on Wednesday.

The roundtable was held to discuss the various proposals made by American think tanks for admitting Pakistan into the nuclear mainstream.

Pakistan and the US had earlier in June agreed on “continued outreach to integrate Pakistan into the international nonproliferation regime”.

According to media reports, the two sides would further dwell on this issue during the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday.

Kazmi says two future courses are being clearly suggested to Pakistan – keep competing with a well resourced India and eventually lose because of its bigger economy or agree to an arrangement where as a quid pro quo to some restrictions on the nuclear and missile programme Pakistan gets its status as a nuclear power normalised.

“The cost that is being suggested is too high,” he said and added that any Pakistani decision in this regard would be informed by the “history and threat calculus”.

Therefore, he suggests that Pakistan should reject these conditions and continue behaving like a “confident nuclear power”.

Kazmi believes that any negotiations between Pakistan and US on mainstreaming would take a long time before any understanding is reached.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, director School of Politics and International Relations Quaid-i-Azam University, dismissed the reported offer of a waiver for Pakistan for admission into nuclear cartels like NSG, terming it ‘lollipops’.

“Pakistan desires to be a member of all international export control regimes - the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australian Group, Wassenaar Arrangement. However, it is not ready to compromise on its nuclear posture by accepting unrealistic conditions on its nuclear weapon programme,” Mr Jaspal said.

“Its because Pakistan’s nuclear decision making is very much determined by its regional strategic environment instead of idealistic norms of nuclear non-proliferationists or nuclear pessimists’ conclusions,” he added.

The recommendations from the roundtable rejected the proposals coming from American think tanks and writers and said that they were a reflection of Indian security interests.

President SVI Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that the proposals put forward by American think tanks were discriminatory because they aim at limiting Pakistan’s nuclear capability, besides freezing the range of ballistic missiles up to the level of Shaheen-III. No such limitations, he noted, were included in the waiver granted to India as part of the nuclear deal.

He further said that it was absurd to ask Pakistan to revert from Full-Spectrum Deterrence to Strategic Deterrence, whereas the nuclear deal given to India did not affect its programme.

Dr Cheema regretted that western researchers deliberately make a misconstrued comparison of Pakistani and Indian programmes.

The American researchers, he said, take into account the potential of Pakistani facilities while declaring it to be the fastest growing in the world, but in case of India they consider the current production of war heads instead of following uniform criteria in both cases.

SVI recommended that US should adopt non-discriminatory criteria for Pakistan’s entry into nuclear mainstream.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2015

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