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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva Zameer Akram has shed light on a longstanding mystery about Pakistan not blocking a country-specific safeguards agreement for India at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008, giving details as to how it had been manoeuvred.

It was previously known that the PPP government had then succumbed to US pressure and did not block or push for a vote or seek amendments to an India-specific agreement with the IAEA. The approval of the agreement by the IAEA board had paved the way for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant an exemption that permitted trade with India, a non-NPT country.

Retired ambassador Zameer Akram in his disclosure explained how the PPP government had internally manipulated the whole issue.

Addressing a seminar at the Strategic Vision Institute, he claimed that the then Pakistan Ambassador to US Hussain Haqqani had “leveraged pressure” on the government to overrule the Foreign Office’s recommendations for opposing the India agreement.

Pakistan’s ambassador at the IAEA had by then written a letter to the board of governors of the agency asking them to oppose the safeguards agreement for India and support Pakistani move for seeking amendments to it.

“The Foreign Office was pressured to change its recommendations,” he said.

Mr Akram recalled that Pakistan had even arranged support of friends, including China, for the move. But, before the board could meet Mr Haqqani conveyed to Islamabad about the feared consequences of opposing the agreement.

The pressure worked and Pakistan agreed to not call for a vote or block passage of the India safeguards agreement in the Aug 1, 2008, IAEA board of governors’ meeting.

US WikiLeaks separately reveal that despite revised orders from the Foreign Office on not objecting the Indian agreement, Pakistani Ambassador Shahbaz had “continued personal concerns about it”.

Amb Shahbaz’s concerns were based on India’s past when it diverted nuclear material from its civilian to its military programme prior to its 1974 nuclear test.

Mr Akram said the decision not to oppose the India agreement was “an error on our part”.

He said it sent wrong signals that when confronted with pressure Pakistan did not withstand it.

The former envoy said Pakistan was being tested again with India being considered for admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group despite not meeting the criteria.

India’s entry to NSG, he warned, would hurt Pakistan’s interests. He stressed that such an eventuality should be pre-empted. In his opinion both Pakistan and India needed to be admitted simultaneously to the NSG.

About the significance of getting the NSG’s membership, he said, “it was a measure of one’s status as nuclear power”.

Mr Akram said pressure was being put on Pakistan to cap its nuclear and missile programme.

The government, he said, should clearly tell western countries that it would not cap its strategic programme.

After a series of reports by think tanks and in media, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson in a testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee said that US was having discussions with Pakistan on its strategic programme and importantly noted that Islamabad was willing to engage on the issue.

Reports have suggested that in the dialogue Pakistan was being pressured to shift declaratory policy from “full spectrum” to “strategic” deterrence; commit to a recessed deterrence posture and limit production of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons; lift its veto on Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and reduce or stop fissile material production; Separate civilian and military nuclear facilities; and sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) without waiting for India.

SVI president Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said it was absurd to ask Pakistan to revert from full-spectrum deterrence to strategic deterrence and unilaterally sign the CTBT that the US itself had not ratified whereas the India had not only been left free to augment its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities but in fact was being offered advanced nuclear technologies and systems like BMD that would undermine the strategic stability in the region.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2015