Pakistan Nuke Deal: Deal or No Deal?

Brother has got his chocolate brownie. Where’s mine? Something of this sort is how Pakistan’s push for their own civilian nuclear deal with the US is turning out to be. Islamabad wants to mirror the package that their infamous neighbor got from the US. This proposal would not only prove to be contentious in the US but also around the world. It is fairly easy to contemplate the possible reasons why US should brush the suggestion aside. Pakistan claims itself to be an energy deficit nation and is trying to use that as the primary reason behind the push.

Having said that, shall we say Pakistan is trying to employ a carrot and stick approach to the nuclear deal here? The answer could be yes. Pakistan undoubtedly holds the key to stabilizing Afghanistan and to remove the strongholds of the Taliban from its neighbor. Pakistan has to put a full stop to their connections with Jihadi outfits and this deal could be the carrot that they are asking for. Another reason why Pakistan is worried at the moment is that the India-US Nuclear deal clearly upset a regional power balance in South Asia.

Looking at the issue from the US’ point of view, there is no incentive for US based players to invest in an unsettled state like Pakistan. It is important to note that the biggest impact of the civilian nuclear deal is on the US companies that produce fuel and weaponry. With its past nuclear proliferation hanging over it, these companies would definitely think twice before investing in Pakistan. On the other hand, India is a fairly safe market for them. Though India is not a member of the NPT, it does not have any black mark in terms of proliferation unlike Pakistan.

With initial reactions from the US pointing to a negative outcome, it is believed that Pakistan has readied a Plan B with China in the pipe. This possibility looks all probable as it is important to note the tepid response from the US when Pakistan invited her to set up nuclear power plants earlier. With AQ Khan at the front and more surprisingly out under a light as any other free man, it is very difficult for Pakistan to get through with the deal. For this reason primarily, US advised Pakistan to look to its petroleum rich neighbor Iran for its nuclear needs. With the situation being so ripe, China is trying to step in and stamp authority in the region by giving Pakistan its required nuclear power. With China itself looking to increase its spending on nuclear fuel for its energy, it is very likely that they would install a few power plants in Pakistan. Whether or not US will offer a civilian nuclear deal to Pakistan is highly doubtful, but it looks very probable that China would do that job sooner or later, thus making her a global player in the nuclear power industry.

With Pakistan’s track record in proliferation being so poor, it would be a very bad idea for anyone to sign a nuclear deal with her at this point. For such a development to embrace Pakistan, she has a long way to go and lot more things to do. Like playing an honest part in defeating the jihad in the Af-Pak region and bring to justice scores of terrorists and army-men who are perpetrators of various traumatic strikes both inside and outside Pakistan.

Pradeep Sekhar

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