ISLAMABAD, July 28: Because of immense US pressure, Pakistan has still not decided whether to press for a vote on the India-specific IAEA safeguards agreement when the UN nuclear watchdog’s board of governors meets on Friday.
“For us, national security is supreme and the government will do everything in its power to defend it,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said at his weekly press briefing without saying anything about Pakistan’s preparation for dealing with the issue at the IAEA board meeting.
An approval of the proposed safeguards agreement by the IAEA will be a decisive step in the completion of the India-US nuclear deal.
Pakistan, one of the 35 members of the IAEA board, has written a note of dissent describing a draft of the safeguards agreement as “discriminatory and dangerous” and called for its amendment.
Pakistan’s principled position on the issue is that a non-discriminatory approach based on objective criteria on access to civilian nuclear technology should be adopted, offering equal opportunity to both Pakistan and India by meeting the relevant benchmarks.
The IAEA board routinely decides a matter through consensus, except when a board member presses for a vote. In that event the matter is decided by simple majority. The IAEA board went for such a vote two years ago over Iran’s nuclear programme.
A call for vote by Pakistan, diplomatic sources say, will be merely symbolic given the fact that the US and other key world powers are backing the agreement.
As an indication of the American pressure on Pakistan to avoid dissent and call for vote, US Ambassador to India David Mulford recently said that his government was talking to Pakistan and was confident that it would see the issue “in right light” and “be cooperative”.
Mr Mulford said the US was “concerned” about Pakistan’s role at the IAEA and was “working on that” for which it had done a bit of direct conversation with Pakistan.
Wary of Pakistan’s opposition, India has launched an intense diplomatic effort to win support for the nuclear deal in the IAEA board.
The FO spokesman reiterated Pakistan’s interest in working with other countries for producing nuclear energy to meet its growing needs.
“Pakistan is keenly interested in having cooperation with the international community in the production of nuclear energy under safeguards.”
Mr Sadiq expressed the hope that the US would eventually offer nuclear energy cooperation to Pakistan under its energy cooperation agreement.
PAKISTAN-INDIA TIES: As a major sign of the stress in Pakistan-India relations, the spokesman conceded that there was no proposal for a Gilani-Singh meeting on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in Colombo next week.
“About the meeting between prime ministers Gilani and Singh, there is no confirmation. I don’t think if there is even a proposal. Meetings between prime ministers on the sidelines of the South Asian summit have been a regular feature and they have been meeting even at the height of tensions,” he added.The only bilateral interaction on the sidelines of the Saarc summit confirmed by the Foreign Office was a meeting between foreign ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Parnab Mukherjee.
However, he did not rule out some subsequent diplomatic development that could lead to a meeting between the two prime ministers.
Mr Sadiq said both the countries needed to maintain a positive direction in their relations for the sake of the region, the people and the future generation.
He even went to the extent of dismissing the latest incident of firing along the LoC from the Indian side as a ‘local issue’ that was addressed at ‘local level’ at the flag meeting between field commanders.
MISSILE ATTACK: Refusing to confirm a missile attack in Wana, Mr Sadiq said it would take 48 hours before the authorities could confirm such an attack.
He, however, said that a joint US-Pakistan commission probing the attack on a Pakistani military post in Mohmand Agency had completed its investigation.
He said both sides differed on the findings but formulated some recommendations for avoiding such incidents in future.