ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is open to separating its civilian and military nuclear facilities and signing the additional protocol to International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) safeguards agreement, but worries that the process for membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has become too politicised.

“We have told the international community that if this is an objective criteria, we can do it because we don’t have any intent to mix civilian and military fuel cycle service. Those cycles are already separate,” Director Strategic Plans Division (SPD) Dr Adil Sultan said while speaking at a round table conference at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) on the criteria proposed by Ambassador Rafael Grossi, the facilitator of the discussion in NSG on membership for non-NPT countries.

“We can also agree to additional protocol if it is only about civilian programme,” he added.

Separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities and signing of the additional protocol are two main issues among the four points that are considered to be designed to block Pakistan’s candidature. Mr Grossi’s proposed criteria have a total of nine conditions.

Mr Sultan explained that technically Pakistan’s civilian and military programmes were already separate and only procedural process was required to notify that to the IAEA.

The SPD official believes that the intent behind the proposed criteria is “not to have a separation plan, but to throw up a road block against Pakistan’s candidature. … it’s politically motivated”.

Recalling the Pakistani proposal to India for a bilateral ban on nuclear testing made earlier this year, Dr Sultan said “whatever Pakistan does or offer gets little resonance”.

He suggested that Pakistan should further strengthen its credentials by doing things that do not affect its national security so that when eventually a formula is agreed, Pakistan does not get knocked out.

Dr Sultan, however, cautioned against perpetually complaining against discrimination. “That’s not how the system works, we would have to do out-of-box thinking to ensure that we are not left out when the formula is developed and applied to the non-NPT states aspiring for NSG membership”.

SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, speaking on the occasion, said the criteria proposed by Mr Grossi suited India, but at the same time it tries to give a false sense of security to Pakistan that in case of India’s entry Delhi would not veto a Pakistani application in future.

SVI recommended to the government to consider separating the civilian and nuclear facilities and signing and ratifying the additional protocol to the safeguards agreement so that Pakistan could bolster its credentials for NSG membership.

Agni Test: The SVI expressed concern over testing of nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-V by India.

Dr Cheema said Agni-V symbolised India’s quest for great power status. “Pakistan should not ignore its future employment,” he said.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal said Agni-V had intensified Pakistan’s security dilemma and would spur arms race in the region. The test, he said, further signified that India was ready to assert itself in the Pacific region.

He wondered about world’s muted reaction to the Indian test.

Published in Dawn December 31st, 2016

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