‘Islamabad not fully informed on N-deal’

April 11, 2006


ISLAMABAD, April 10: The Foreign Office on Monday for the first time openly declared that the information shared with Pakistan initially on the India-US deal in civilian nuclear technology field did not match exactly with the final shape the agreement took.

This was stated by Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam while responding to questions at a weekly news briefing here on Monday.

Dispelling a general impression that the US government had kept Pakistan fully informed about the deal while it was in the works, Ms Aslam categorically stated: “No, we were not told about step-by-step approach.” Short of conveying a sense of betrayal, she said: “We were told that such a deal was on the cards and, in fact, the initial information about what this deal would look like is slightly different from what has come out finally.”

Defending Pakistan’s position on the controversial India-US deal, she asserted: “This is not an exercise in damage-control. Even before this deal was signed we had said that we would like the US to adopt a package approach because Pakistan also has energy requirements.”

She said Pakistan had given its detailed reaction after learning about particulars of the agreement, adding that its concern had been heightened by provisions in the agreement that could have some serious implications for the strategic stability in the region.

“We also feel that it is discriminatory because Pakistan and India are nuclear weapon states which are not part of the NPT and, instead of making exception for one, it would have been better for the US to work out a package deal that would take care of energy requirements of the two countries, the strategic stability in this region and would also take into account the non-proliferation effort.”

Ms Aslam denied giving a statement attributed to her in a column that appeared in a newspaper on Sunday that Pakistan had agreed to discuss with India a cap on nuclear weapons programme.

Terming the statement ‘outrageous’, she said it should be disregarded.

MORATORIUM: On Condoleezza Rice’s statement that the US was working for a fissile material moratorium between Pakistan and India, the FO spokesperson said: “Are they? I thought that was strictly for the birds.”

Referring to the Strategic Restraint Regime that Pakistan had already proposed to India, Ms Aslam said: “We have not had a response to that. Some elements of the Strategic Restrain Regime had been discussed in the past and we also are willing to participate constructively in the negotiations on the fissile material treaty if and when the negotiations on this start in the CD (Conference on Disarmament).”

Responding to a question, she said there were no discussions with the US or anyone about capping certain number of nuclear weapons. She reiterated that Pakistan would do whatever it required to maintain its minimum nuclear deterrence.

DEMOCRACY: On Mr Boucher’s statements about democracy, she said Pakistan’s position on democracy and the process of democratisation had been made amply clear by the leadership of Pakistan. “Essentially, these are matters for the government and people of Pakistan to discuss and decide,” she emphasised.

US TRAVEL ADVISORY: Answering another question she said the latest US travel advisory was almost identical to the standard travel advisory that the US government had been issuing and updating from time to time.

“While we have been talking to the US government about the desirability of modifying these travel advisories and their negative impact on US investment in Pakistan, we also have to acknowledge the fact that there have been some terrorist incidents,” the FO spokesperson said.

SAARC: The spokesperson was evasive on the question about Pakistan’s position on the US interest in obtaining observer status in Saarc.

She said the Standing Committee of Saarc that was to meet in Dhaka on Tuesday would consider the question of setting criteria for it. She said once that was done the first item before the Standing Committee would be the formal admission of China and Japan in Saarc as observers.

LOBBYING: Referring to the role of lobbyists, she said that appointment of lobbyists in Washington was a “recognised and legitimate” practice and pointed out that most countries had lobbyists in the US to promote bilateral relations.

IRAN: On threats of US strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, the FO spokesperson underlined that Pakistan had repeatedly said it was opposed to a military action. She added: “We do hope that there will be some positive outcome and forward movement.”

HAMAS: Referring to suspension of aid assistance to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, the FO spokesperson said: “We have repeatedly said that Hamas is the elected representative of the Palestinian people and this is democracy at work and international community must engage with Hamas.”

INDIA-PAKISTAN: On the government’s recent directive to parliamentarians not to establish direct contacts with the Indian High Commission, the spokesperson maintained that it was not India-specific. “I don’t think there is a decision that singles out any one embassy or high commission. There are government instructions about interaction and the Cabinet Division issues these instructions,” she told a questioner.