Obama unlikely to go down nuclear path with Pakistan in a hurry: US experts

April 10th, 2009 - 2:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 10 (IANS) President Barack Obama’s administration is unlikely to follow through on a suggestion to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan to acknowledge its nuclear weapon status in a hurry, analysts say.

But the US must find a way to make Pakistan’s nuclear programme transparent and ensure the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, they said commenting on an Asia Society Task Force report suggesting such a dialogue.

Since US Special Representative on Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke and National Security Advisor Gen James Jones were active members of the task force until they took up their current assignments, the suggestion had sent alarm bells ringing in New Delhi.

Holbrooke and Jones stood down before the report was written, but they as also other members of the task force like Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid, have been advising the administration on its Af-Pak strategy and would have influence on its policy.

“However, how to acknowledge Pakistan’s nuclear weapon status, I don’t know if that’s something on which Obama administration would be moving on fairly quickly,” Reva Bhalla, Director of Analysis at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company, told IANS.

Pakistan has a feeling that it has not been treated fairly by Washington in reaching the landmark civil nuclear deal with New Delhi that has become symbolic of the strategic partnership with India.

Pakistan is not exactly on the same footing, Bhalla said, but “the whole point is how to integrate Pakistan under a better international regime and how to make Pakistan’s nuclear programme more transparent.”

The administration should try to do something, though not an India like civil nuclear deal, to begin with acknowledge Pakistan’s nuclear status, she said. “Pakistan of course would demand more and seek access to nuclear technology and nuclear fuel but that’s not going to pass Congress easily.”

Lisa Curtis, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, agrees that initiating a dialogue with Pakistan to acknowledge its nuclear weapon status was not an easy proposition. “There would be several complicating factors to going down this path,” Curtis told IANS.

“For starters, US Congressional officials have been dissatisfied with the handling of the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation debacle and, at a bare minimum, would require clarification on his status within Pakistan and a fuller accounting of his proliferation activities before they would give any consideration to officially recognising Pakistan’s nuclear weapons status.”

However, “there are good reasons for having a discreet US-Pakistan dialogue about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal,” Curtis said.

“But that is a far cry from official recognition of Pakistan as a nuclear weapons power - a status even India does not enjoy. Despite that it has shown far more responsibility with regard to controlling proliferation of its programmes.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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