The cat is finally out of the bag! As a very much diminished Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif arrived for a much truncated summit with Barack Obama on October 22nd, initial Pakistani denials about a civil nuclear deal gave way to admission that Pakistan has already developed India-centric tactical nuclear weapons. The US side was more frank in admitting that a civil nuclear deal was being discussed with Pakistan for last few months but it will not be signed during the current visit owing to lack of agreement.
Initial US postures:
The first inkling about any possible civil nuclear deal between Pakistan and the US was a beautifully staged interview of General Khalid Kidwai, the former director of Pakistan’s Strategic Planning division. The interview was done during Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Biennial Nuclear Policy Conference in March 2015. Peter Lavoy, a foremost Pakistan expert threw softballs at General Khalid Kidwai who took a very anti-India aggressive posture in the presence of still practicing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Ayatollahs of the American think tanks in Washington, DC. General Kidwai got away with regurgitating stark lies about the so-called “Cold Start Doctrine” of Indian Army and half-truths about India’s nuclear posture.
This was followed in August 2015 by a 48 page long joint report by Carnegie Endowment and Stimson Center authored by Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon. Titled a “Normal Nuclear Pakistan”, it advocated putting four brackets on Pakistani nuclear program in exchange for some concessions by the US and a carrot of the NSG membership and other international regimes. The report exhorted mainstreaming of Pakistan’s nuclear program if it agreed to sign and ratify the CTBT without waiting for India, agreed to limit production of fissile material and stop blocking FMCT, agreed to separate civil and military nuclear programs and agreed for limits in production of short range missiles and tactical nuclear weapons. In essence the report exhorted Pakistan to implement a paradigm shift back to “Credible Minimum Deterrence” from the “Full Spectrum Deterrence” in exchange for mainstreaming!
This was followed by selective disclosures and pleadings from former CIA officers like Kevin Hulbert and journalists including David Ignatius and David Sanger. Characterizing Pakistan as “Too big to fail”, Kevin Hulbert emphasized the nuclear threat posed by Pakistan. Labeling Pakistan as probably the most dangerous country for the world, he enunciated his case for more nuclear engagement with Pakistan as that country poses triple threats of terrorism, failing economy and the fastest growing nuclear arsenal. David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist disclosed the ongoing exploratory discussions of civil nuclear deal with Pakistan on October 6th 2015. Ignatius reported that Pakistan has been asked to consider accepting “brackets” on its nuclear program and delivery systems without weakening the Pakistani nuclear deterrence towards India! David Sanger in his October 15th piece clarified that Pakistan is not being offered the civil nuclear deal similar to India. He reported that US is trying to explore ways to relax NSG rules for Pakistan with a long-term goal of allowing it to join the NSG. Apparently China’s flagrant violation of the NSG rules and nuclear commerce and proliferation with Pakistan is the reason necessitating relaxation of rules. Essentially, US bureaucracy is searching for a fig-leaf to hide its shame in not being able to control the nuclear proliferation activities of China and Pakistan! US is too weak economically and militarily to confront China & Pakistan for both vertical and horizontal nuclear proliferation activities as part of the CHIPNOKISS network.
A lively debate has ensued in the US about inadvisability of the WH initiative of rewarding this rogue state. US think tanks have taken pro-Pakistani positions while politicians oppose it. Lisa Curtis a respected analyst has urged not rewarding the rogue state. George Perkovich, the vice-President for Carnegie Endowment used the sales pitch that “If Pakistan would take the actions requested by the US, it would essentially amount to recognition of its rehabilitation and would essentially amount to parole”. The phrase “rehabilitation and parole” used by Perkovich angered the Pakistani establishment.
Congressman Ted Poe, who is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade, in a strongly worded letter to Obama urged the POTUS to not engage in any negotiations regarding a US-Pak civilian nuclear agreement because “Pakistan has repeatedly proven itself to be deceptive and deceitful!”
Daniel Markey, a senior research Professor at the John Hopkins SAIS and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the CFR summarized his crisp opinion by stating that “there is simply no time for nuclear deal” because Pakistan’s current condition raises other fundamental questions about its long-term relationship with the US. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal continues to pose serious threats like insider theft, onward proliferation, accidents, sabotage or unauthorized use by rogue Jihadi officers!
Senator John Cornyn, Senate Majority Whip for the 114th Congress, said “it is ill-advised” to pursue any type of civil nuclear agreement with Pakistan. Senator Cornyn, founder and Co-Chair of Senate India Caucus, reminded that the issues surrounding Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal are of significant concern, and serious doubts persist regarding the security of its nuclear weapons. He also focused on Pakistan government’s clandestine nuclear proliferation network that provided nuclear weapons technology to rogue regimes in Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Cornyn’s reminder about this illegal network that has been dubbed as Nuclear Walmart or the CHINOKISS network is indeed a very timely reality check.
The initial inkling of any possible US-Pakistan nuclear deal came from Saira Bano, a Pakistani visiting fellow at the Stimson Center on June 22nd 2015. She disclosed that Pakistan had again demanded an India-style civil nuclear agreement under the auspices of the US-Pakistan dialogue during the 7th round of the US-Pakistan Security, Strategic Stability and non-Proliferation Working Group in June 2015. Advising Pakistan that the road to civilian nuclear cooperation begins in Islamabad, she exhorted Pakistani government to emulate India by focusing on economic growth and increasing trade relations in order to minimize the political temperature. Creating a soft international image of Pakistan with responsible behavior was her mantra for Pak establishment.
Following the disclosure from the White House, the ostensible Pakistani response was a vehement denial coupled with assertions that Pakistan will never accept any “brackets” on its nuclear and delivery system program. Pakistan is focusing on IRBMs and nuclear-powered submarines supplied by China for second strike capability.
Munir Akram, the disgraced former Pakistani Permanent Representative to the UN gave the initial defiant response that Pakistan will not negotiate its nuclear assets and will not accept any brackets in view of it doctrine of “Full Spectrum Deterrence”. This was followed by a frank admission by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry that Pakistan has developed tactical nuclear weapons that are primarily India-Centric. Appointment of recently retired General Nasser Khan Janjua as the new national security advisor is indicative of the fact that General Raheel Sharif wants to negotiate directly with the WH without the constraints of dealing with the civilian administration of Nawaz Sharif.
Shahzad Choudhry, a retired Pakistani air-marshall acknowledged that the suicidal threats of “Full Spectrum Deterrence” should be the leitmotif for a dance drama by Nawaz Sharif before Obama. He opened the window for Pakistan to bite the bullet and reverse back to doctrinal shift to credible minimum deterrence. It is again rationalization of nuclear blackmail by the rogue state with a gun pointing at one’s own head. Following the good cop, bad cop tactic, Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, director, School of Politics and International Relations at the Quaid-e-Azam University characterized the reported offer of waiver for Pakistan for admission into NSG as “lollipops”. While Pakistan wants to be member of all the export control regimes, it is not willing to accept restrictions on its nuclear weapons program. Zahir Kazmi of the Strategic Vision Institute of Pakistan dubbed these expectations of Pakistan agreeing to “brackets” as wishful thinking! He opines that Pakistan should reject any such deal because the cost of “mainstreaming” is too high in terms of accepting conditions. Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, the president of Strategic Vision Institute demanded parity and hyphenation with India in accepting any nuclear deal. Dr. Cheema rejected demands for reversion from “Full Spectrum Deterrence” back to “Credible Minimum Deterrence”.
While the Government of India has remained very restrained and measured about any possible nuclear deal between US and Pakistan, the hyperactive Indian press and analysts have discussed it threadbare. The Ministry of External Affairs responded in the following words: “We’ve seen these reports and it is not for the first time this issue has surfaced. Whosoever is examining that particular dossier should be well-aware of Pakistan’s track record in the area of proliferation. When India got this particular deal it was on the basis of our own impeccable non-proliferation track record. That is the reason the U.S. gave us 123 Agreement in 2005 and that is why we got a NSG waiver in 2008. Pakistan’s track record is completely different, so we hope that will be taken into account in making any such decision”.
Happymon Jacob who teaches Disarmament and National Security at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.in his op-ed piece in the Hindu takes the pro-US views about “Mainstreaming Pakistan” and wants New Delhi to offer conditional support to Pakistan’s inclusion in the global nuclear order. He enthusiastically wants the U.S. and other stakeholders to press Islamabad to stop stalling the FMCT negotiations, and agree to a nuclear ‘No-first-use’ agreement with India, which is already part of the Indian doctrine. He advocates obtaining firm commitments from Pakistan on clamping down on terrorism in the country in order to reduce the likelihood of nuclear terrorism in the region. He suggests re-hyphenation of India with Pakistan, as part of the deal, and to negotiate nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) with that country. What he totally forgets is that any commitment by Pakistan in the past have been worth the used toilet paper! Pakistan’s strategic behavior does not change with engagement strategies. C Mohan Raja another pro-US analyst cogently highlighted the inherent contradictions in the proposed deal that make it very difficult to sell to both US and Pakistan.
Seema Sirohi, a Washington based journalist analyzed the behaviors and motives of the US actors behind the sudden blockbuster proposal and characterized the proposal as part revenge and part grandstanding. Peter Lavoy, the point person for South Asia in the US National Security Council is the chief architect of this blockbuster plan has deep links to Pakistani army. She further highlights that the joint think tank report states that India should not be allowed to join the NSG before Pakistan thus re-hyphenating India with Pakistan. The US deep state still romanticizes the Pakistani allies of the cold war era and are pining for the return of the intimate relationship.
Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary, in a very detailed analysis explicitly states that US-Pakistan nuclear deal will be a threat to India’s security. Noting the historical US soft spot of Pakistan, the China Pakistan Nuclear Axis the proposed deal, he argues would be a reward for Pakistani military as the nuclear program is under control of military without any civilian input.
The most cogent analysis was done by Dhruva Jaishankar, who has inherited Indian strategic genes. He bluntly described America’s Pak-Af policy as the definition of insanity! The real reason for Pakistan’s nuclear expansion isn’t India — it is for blackmailing the US to collect more rent. He argues that the US has been so fearful of Pakistan’s nukes being sold, stolen, lost, sabotaged, or accidentally used that during George W. Bush’s administration, $100 million was spent trying to secure the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. Since 2001, the Pakistan Army has also received more than $20 billion in military support from the US, even though it has continued to support terrorist groups like the Haqqani network that have killed hundreds of Americans. US has been gullible to trust successive Pakistani rulers who have adroitly shook down the superpower without US realizing that it has been conned! Rakesh Sood, India’s former representative at the Conference on Disarmament highlighted the shortcomings of previous US administrations when Reagan deliberately overlooked Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear activities. Pakistan’s obsession of nuclear parity with India encourages the US non-proliferation lobby to attempt re-hyphenation of India and Pakistan thereby rewarding that rogue nation.
The US-Pak Joint Statement:
While the US-Pakistan joint statement released on October 22nd is silent about any possible civil nuclear deal mainstreaming Pakistan immediately, it does comment on strategic stability, nuclear security, and nonproliferation. Using banal Diplomatese jargon the statement is high on rhetoric and low on content. Advising maximum restraint the statement exhorted Pakistan to work toward strengthening strategic stability in South Asia. The statement acknowledged the importance of regional balance and stability in South Asia. The joint statement highlights the continuing threat of nuclear terrorism and the need for Pakistan to work with US on Nuclear Security Summit. The joint statement noted Pakistan’s efforts and aspirations to improve its strategic trade controls and enhance its engagement with multilateral export control regimes. Recognizing the importance of bilateral engagement in the Security, Strategic Stability and Non-Proliferation Working Group, the joint statement hinted that both sides will continue to negotiate on a future “mainstreaming deal”.
Post the summit, Nawaz Sharif gave the ultimatum to the US to take Pakistan’s side in its long-standing dispute with India or run the risk of escalating nuclear conflict. He stated that Pakistan was ready to help US and Afghanistan revive peace talks with Taliban rebels. Seeking a quid pro quo he made it clear that his main priority was seeking international support to compel India to negotiate over the future of Jammu & Kashmir.
The US, on the other hand, has categorically ruled out any kind of negotiations with Pakistan on India-type civil nuclear deal (123 Agreement), nor are they seeking country specific waiver for Pakistan from the NSG. The US insists that they have ongoing discussion on Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security along with promotion of strategic stability. What is not ruled out is a future deal that Pakistan may choose in near future if it does not insist on nuclear parity with India.
Gazing the Crystal ball:
Pakistani politicians and military take pride in brandishing their nukes at drop of a hat. Sartaj Aziz, the outgoing NSA of Pakistan boasted recently: “We are a nuclear armed country and we know how to defend ourselves”. From an Indian perspective, any civil nuclear deal between US and Pakistan would be strategically dangerous because it will further embolden the GHQ/ISI/Jihadi/Wahabi terror complex in Islamabad in staging acts of terrorism utilizing the services of non-state actors against India. It will be perceived as endorsement of Pakistan’s anti-India postures by the rogue military elite of that country. Having said that, how much India would be able to influence the POTUS remains very questionable because in the 1980s Reagan administration brushed aside India’s concerns.
WWOD (What Would Obama Do)?
Obama’s legacy factor may trump all the rationale courses of action for the US. Obama is now a lame duck President hobbled by a dysfunctional Republican Congress who is looking for his foreign policy legacy. Despite his domestic failures, he has already made history by starting reengagement with Cuba and signing of a nuclear deal with Iran. However, he has proven ineffective and mediocre while dealing with the strategic chaos in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and in ending Pak-Af terrorism challenges. His administration is trying to offer a candy to Pakistan to cajole it to cooperate with the US’s and Obama’s deeply flawed Pak-AF strategy. Following into the footsteps of George W Bush, Obama regime has offered 8 new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan ostensibly to deal with the insurgency in Balochistan besides the 70 F-16’s that Pakistan already has. Whom is Obama administration trying to fool?
There is limited time window of only 14 months between now and January 2017 when a newly elected US President will take office. Obama’s lame duck regime is likely to go on a fast track to finalize a nuclear deal with Pakistan at the cost of India in order to glorify Obama presidency for the posterity! Although negotiations for such a deal takes months and years, both parties are eager to win the trophy before January 2017. The US think tanks have an incestuous relationship with Pakistan from the cold-war era. They are, indeed, cheering for Pakistan and egging on the Obama administration to reward the rogue nation.
Pakistan may reluctantly consider signing the nuclear deal with “brackets” having no intention of sticking to the limits or caps or brackets. Reneging agreements and treaties has been the persistent behavior pattern of the Pakistani state. A future POTUS may disregard Pakistani nuclear indiscretions reflexively in “larger US strategic interests” as Reagan had done in the past. In this regard it is important to review Pakistan’s past performance. Hussain Haqqani, the former Pakistani Ambassador to US and currently the Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute makes a candid confession that US policies have aggravated Pakistan’s dysfunction; reignited and reinforced the magnificent delusions that the US cannot simply manage the world without Pakistani help. He makes a point that Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons while promising the US it won’t go nuclear if it gets US economic and military assistance in 1970s and 1980s.
Internally, because of the deep divisions in the US policy establishment, this issue may get dragged into the presidential electoral politics. Obama and his acolytes forget that any legitimization of Pakistan would embolden Saudi Arabia and other gulf monarchies to develop their own military nuclear programs. Since Saudi Arabia has been the paymaster for the Pakistani nuclear program, post-deal Pakistan will indulge in nuclear commerce again albeit legally instead of through clandestine CHIPNOKISS network. Furthermore, Pakistan is not a normal state. It is an artificially contrived transitional entity which has been facetiously dubbed as an ideological Islamic Army with a country. Nothing else is farther from the truth than this blunt statement. There are major ideological similarities between the Daesh/ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic state and the GHQ/ISI/Jihadi complex of Islamabad. In both cases, an ideologically driven fighting force is holding civilians to ransom in the land they control. Welfare of the citizens is not the concern. Retired Pakistani military officers and nuclear scientists in past have volunteered their services to Al Qaeda. Leakage, theft, diversion and sabotage will remain serious limitations of Pakistani nuclear arsenal even if gets “mainstreamed”!
The current Republican party dominated US Congress may not approve any civil nuclear deal (123 Agreement) with Pakistan because of Pakistan’s consistently stellar record of duplicity and cheating forever on bilateral and multilateral agreements. America’s India-bashing cold-warriors who serve as the high priests and Ayatollahs of the US non-proliferation industry will make a last-ditch effort to reward the rogue state of Pakistan in order to further humiliate India for strategic autonomy and for her principled stand on NPT and CTBT. India must watch out for her strategic interests.
अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी
THE COUNCIL FOR STRATEGIC AFFAIRS, NEW DELHI