WASHINGTON – The United States and Pakistan are in the process of negotiating an accord which may end up in a civil nuclear deal between the two countries in what could be a “diplomatic blockbuster,” a leading American newspaper reported on Wednesday.
But David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post, states that in return the White House is seeking possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
In his regular column, columnist Ignatius states that the White House is working on an “an accord [which] might eventually open a path toward a Pakistani version of the civil nuclear deal that was launched with India in 2005.”
He wrote, “The nuclear dialogue is especially important because it would begin to address what US officials for two decades have viewed as one of the world’s most dangerous security problems. A source familiar with the talks said that Pakistan has been asked to consider what are described as ‘brackets.’
Pakistan would agree to restrict its nuclear programme to weapons and delivery systems that are appropriate to its actual defence needs against India’s nuclear threat.
Pakistan might agree not to deploy missiles capable of reaching beyond a certain range, for example.
“Pakistan prizes its nuclear programme, so negotiations would be slow and difficult, and it’s not clear that Islamabad would be willing to accept the limitations that would be required. But the issue is being discussed quietly in the run-up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington Oct. 22. Any progress would break a stalemate that has existed since the United States detected Pakistan’s nuclear programme in the mid-1980s, and especially after Pakistan exploded its first weapon in 1998.
In return for such an agreement, the columnist, citing one source, the United States might support an eventual waiver for Pakistan by the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which the United States is a member.
“At US’ urging, the nuclear suppliers group had agreed to exempt India from rules that banned nuclear trade with countries that evaded the Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing the Pakistani arch rival a partial entry into the club of nuclear powers in exchange for its willingness to apply International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards to its civilian programme,” he wrote.
“The United States may have forgotten Afghanistan and Pakistan, but those volatile countries haven’t forgotten about the United States. The dangers are as real as ever, and so is the need for aggressive diplomacy to reduce the threat.”
The nuclear dialogue comes in the wake of a recent surge of Taliban violence in Afghanistan, building pressure on the US to address the issues of the nation it evaded a decade ago, Ignatius wrote. “The US is quietly exploring some diplomatic options that could reduce the violence in Afghanistan,” the report said. “Considering the volatile situation of the region, the US is keen to adopt an aggressive diplomacy to reduce the Taliban’s threat which the Afghan government frequently blames to have been sponsored from Pakistan, a claim Pakistani officials have always denied.
“The US recognised more than four years ago that the best way out of the Afghanistan conflict would be a diplomatic settlement that involved the Taliban and ‘its sometime sponsors in Pakistan’.
“But the pace of negotiations has quickened this year, thanks to an unlikely US diplomatic partnership with China.” A senior administration official said on Monday that ‘we’re hopeful that there will be a willingness on the part of the Taliban to resume negotiations,’” despite the intense fighting in Kunduz and elsewhere. Beijing’s involvement is a ‘new dynamic’ and shows an instance where ‘US interests overlap with those of China’.”