A nuclear agreement between Pakistan and the United States benefits everyone. Except Pakistan.
- By Rabia AkhtarRabia Akhtar holds a PhD in Security Studies and is Director, Centre for Security, Strategy and Policy Research (CSSPR) at the University of Lahore in Lahore, Pakistan.
Regardless of the conditions, Pakistan should not pursue any civil nuclear agreement with the United States. Pakistan should review its national security concerns and decide whether it wants to be bound by the rules of conduct of an unbalanced nuclear order.
Pakistan’s Desire for a Nuclear Deal
There are three main reasons why Pakistan wants a civil nuclear deal with the United States.
First, Pakistan believes that the strategic dynamics in the region are heavily tipped in favor of India — post Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. The agreement, which U.S. lawmakers passed in 2008, removes nuclear sanctions on India and allows the United States to share nuclear technology so India can develop its civilian nuclear industry. The U.S.-led Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for India has allowed it to sign nuclear cooperation agreements with at least a dozen countries, allowing India to obtain nuclear fuel for its civilian nuclear program from NSG nations. This arrangement allows India to direct its limited indigenous reserves of fissile materials solely towards nuclear weapons production.
The Indo-U.S. deal only requires India to separate its civilian and military facilities. It does not require India to cap its nuclear weapons production, unlike the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which India is not a signatory. In addition, the deal does not require India to take stringent measures to ensure there is no diversion of fissile material from the civilian to the military side.
Pakistan also finds it troubling that India’s drive towards qualitative and quantitative improvement in its nuclear arsenal doesn’t seem to alarm the international community as much as Pakistan’s nuclear inventory estimated at 110-130 nuclear warheads. Similarly, the ever-increasing range of India’s intercontinental ballistic missiles with Agni V at 5000 km and Agni VI under development eyeing an estimated range of beyond 10,000 km has raised only a few eyebrows. To Pakistan, this is evidence enough of the dual standards by which the global non-proliferation regime operates. Given such free rein, Pakistan worries that nothing stands in India’s way from enhancing the quality and quantity of its nuclear weapons arsenal. Thus it is believed that the strategic balance between India and Pakistan can only be restored if a similar deal is offered to Pakistan.
The second reason why Pakistan desires a nuclear deal is its own internal energy needs. Pakistan maintains that it has legitimate and urgent energy needs that could be met by a nuclear deal allowing it to access fissile material for its civilian nuclear program. After the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal was signed in 2005, the NSG gave a special country-specific exemption to India in 2008 allowing it to receive nuclear exports from NSG members. At the time the exemption was given, Indian nuclear facilities were not under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. They still aren’t. All of Pakistan’s current nuclear power plants are under IAEA safeguards, and it expresses a willingness to maintain similar safeguards on new nuclear power plants and to obey the regulations in any future engagements in regular nuclear commerce with other NSG members, an opportunity that it has been denied for decades.
The third reason for Pakistan to pursue a nuclear deal is the U.S.-led push for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Pakistan fears that once India is let in, Pakistan’s entry into NSG will not be possible given that the group is a consensus based entity and a single country veto can block membership of any new entrant. Given decades of mutual hostility, India has enough incentives to block Pakistan’s entry into the nuclear supplying body. Thus the only possible path would be a simultaneous entry into the NSG of both India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan should be evaluated for nuclear deals based on the same criteria and they should be granted equal rights in terms of nuclear cooperation with other countries and licensing for nuclear commerce.
Daltonization-Kreponization-Normalization of Nuclear Pakistan
The study ‘Normal Nuclear Pakistan’ was released in August by Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon. This report was not well received by Pakistan or India. For the Indian strategic community, the very idea of mainstreaming Pakistan and proposing nuclear parity with India was seen as preposterous. For the Pakistani strategic community, this scholarly report was perceived as dictation by the United States telling Pakistan what constituted normal behavior.
The Dalton-Krepon report provides some recommendations for Pakistan to find an audience receptive to its desire for a civilian nuclear deal. Pakistan has categorically rejected five nuclear weapon-related initiatives proposed in the report:
- Pakistan should shift from ‘full spectrum’ to ‘strategic deterrence’. Pakistan maintains that after having developed Nasr, a battlefield nuclear weapon, it has achieved full spectrum deterrence (FSD). FSD provides Pakistan the flexibility to deter threats posed by Indian Cold Start strategy of limited incursion at tactical level. This upgrade in deterrence policy however is said to be consistent with Pakistan’s original credible minimum deterrence doctrine.
- Pakistan should limit the production of its short-range delivery vehicles, tactical nuclear weapons and commit to a ‘recessed’ deterrence posture. Pakistan maintains that the Indian Cold Start doctrine (CSD), which the Indians claim to have shelved, is very much alive and operational. Until and unless the neighborhood stabilizes, and India truly shelves its aggressive doctrine, Pakistan cannot consider limiting the production of its short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons which were developed to counter the CSD.
- Pakistan should lift its long held veto in the Conference of Disarmament and let the negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty (FMCT) begin and both reduce and stop its fissile material production. Pakistan’s position on the FMT is not going to change anytime soon. Pakistan maintains that unless and until the treaty addresses existing fissile stocks along with a cut-off of fissile material production, it will not be acceptable.
- Pakistan should separate its civilian and military facilities. We should recall that India agreed to this as part of its deal with the United States.
- Pakistan should sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) without waiting for India to sign (first or simultaneously). The only problem Pakistan has with signing the CTBT and not ratifying is the political commitment it requires. If Pakistan does make this political commitment and India goes ahead and conducts a nuclear test, it will be difficult for Pakistan to exit the treaty to signal its protest. Pakistan observes a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and maintains that it will not be the first one to resume testing in the region.
The Dalton-Krepon report provides two alternate futures for Pakistan. The first option allows Pakistan to continue its nuclear competition with India, matching it weapon by weapon, tank by tank, missile by missile. This would require huge economic resources that Pakistan lacks. The second alternate nuclear future is that Pakistan de-links its nuclear requirements and capabilities from competing with India. Dalton-Krepon suggest that Pakistan should take pride in its accomplishment of achieving strategic deterrence which means retaining the good old formulation of ‘credible minimum deterrence’ and refrain from upping it to full-spectrum deterrence along with nuclear war-fighting capabilities and plans.
Pakistan’s Most Desirable Nuclear Future
The most desirable future scenario would be to see a safe and secure nuclear Pakistan. This would entail a Pakistan that shouldn’t have to plead for admission in the Nuclear Suppliers Group; a Pakistan that could afford all its decisions no longer resting on an action-reaction equation vis-à-vis India; a Pakistan that is proactive in its engagement with the rest of the world. Pakistan should rethink the objectives of its nuclear program, think about the strategic amount of nuclear weapons it needs to be secure, and then stop at that number. It should work towards making its nuclear arsenal sustainable and deterrence more credible. Rather than talking about nuclear mainstreaming and seeking accommodation in the global nuclear order, Pakistan should think about nuclear sufficiency, nuclear sustainability and strengthening its deterrence credibility. Pakistan did not come this far by begging the gate-keepers of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, but by its own indigenous efforts to achieve nuclear capability. Any civilian nuclear deal, if offered to Pakistan, by the United States or any NSG country other than China, will come with conditions that will cripple Pakistan’s nuclear program. It is not worth pursuing.
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