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Pak wants N-parity with India, US mum
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The Obama administration has not entered into negotiations with Pakistan on a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one George W. Bush’s administration struck with India, according to US government sources. Earlier, Anne Patterson, the US ambassador to Pakistan, reportedly told a Los Angeles-based paper the US was considering "working-level talks" with the Pakistani government on a nuclear deal.

Longtime South Asia analysts in Washington have expressed support for such an agreement, but some point out that it would be a tough sell in the US Congress. “I’ve always favoured some kind of ‘deal’, but not one identical to the India deal," said Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institute. He told The Tribune a deal with Pakistan should be "criteria-based, and should include a commitment about present and future ‘good’ nuclear behaviour." Some US lawmakers are quick to point to the nuclear black market run by disgraced Pakistani scientist AQ Khan when making the case why Pakistan should not get a deal similar to the US-India pact.

Cohen contended punishment for past behaviour is not a useful strategy. "The US should be satisfied that it knows all it needs to know, privately or publicly, about past Pakistani nuclear transfers, and a N-deal should not be a reward for Pakistani cooperation on the Taliban," he said.

Marvin Weinbaum at the Middle East Institute said that politically, "It is a deliverable worth exploring." He believes a nuclear deal with Pakistan would perhaps begin to reverse the increasing bitterness toward the US in the Pakistani public. Recent public opinion polls find the US favourability among Pakistanis at its nadir. "This may be important because the top civilian and military elite are being more cooperative in dealing with the militants. But this may not be sustainable or progress much further without narrowing the gap between the elite's cautious policies and popular opinion, especially as it is being poisoned by the media," Weinbaum told The Tribune.

Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation said it was fairly unlikely that the US Congress would approve a civilian nuclear deal for Pakistan along the lines of the India deal. Weinbaum admitted the deal would be "a hard sell, though not impossible in the US Congress."

Pak Foreign Minister Makhdoom Mahmood Qureshi will be in Washington this week for the first ministerial-level US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.



Richard HolbrookeWill hear out Pak: Holbrooke

Asked about the possibility of a nuclear a deal with Pak, Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, ducked, saying, “We have a very broad and complex agenda in these talks, and this is the first strategic dialogue ever at this level, and the first of this administration. And we’re going to listen carefully to whatever the Pakistanis say.”



New Delhi opposes proposal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
Reports from Washington suggesting the possibility of a nuclear agreement between the United States and Pakistan on the lines of the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal have raised the hackles of New Delhi. Reacting to Washington indicating its readiness to discuss the nuclear pact with energy-starved Pakistan, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said: "America needs to take a holistic view on the US-Pak nuclear deal. The US should consider Pakistan's track record before any deal.”

Government sources said India hoped “The international community would strike the right balance between meeting the energy needs of any country while taking on board its track record with regard to proliferation of nuclear technology and weapons of mass destruction.”

The BJP was quick to criticise reports of a possible deal, and also accused US of overlooking Pakistan's role in Kashmir. The possibility of a nuclear deal between the US and Pakistan has come as a rude shock to New Delhi, given the fact that Washington has repeatedly ruled out such a pact with Islamabad.

Washington has also endorsed New Delhi’s apprehension that Pakistan’s nuclear assets could fall into the hands of terrorist groups, given the fragile nature of the government in Islamabad.



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