The Debate

If Pakistan Wants a ‘Normal’ Nuclear Status, It Must Give Up Terrorism

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The Debate

If Pakistan Wants a ‘Normal’ Nuclear Status, It Must Give Up Terrorism

A throwback to simplistic US rationalizations still won’t bring Pakistan into the non-proliferation mainstream.

If Pakistan Wants a ‘Normal’ Nuclear Status, It Must Give Up Terrorism
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ever since India and the United States concluded their 2005 civil nuclear agreement, which essentially recognized India as the sixth nuclear weapons power in the global order, Pakistan has argued for a similar agreement with the U.S., despite its dubious record of proliferation.

Pakistan seeks parity with India in every realm, even if its size and history make that a questionable project. Undeterred, it has mounted a massive diplomatic campaign in Western capitals over the last several years to block India from reaching the next stage of legitimacy for its nuclear program, i.e. entry into the four international technology-control regimes starting with the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Islamabad’s anti-India campaign can be considered somewhat successful, since it has managed to chip away at the resistance against its own proliferation record while raising questions about accepting India as a de facto nuclear power. Conventional wisdom in Washington, which once considered Pakistan as a nuclear pariah because of A.Q. Khan’s enterprise of selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea, has shifted to finding ways of rationalizing its behavior.

The reasons are two-fold: Pakistan is apparently making 20 nuclear weapons a year and in a decade could amass the world’s third largest arsenal. Some U.S. experts believe that something must be done to treat this suicidal/homicidal behavior.

The second reason is the residual desire among many American non-proliferation experts – encouraged by the curtailment of Iran’s nuclear program – to have a second go at India and impose conditions on its nuclear program by way of Pakistan. They say India got away too easily in 2005 – despite their considerable efforts to scuttle the nuclear deal – and that its subsequent actions to implement the terms of the agreement have “fallen short of expectations.”

It is against this background that a new report by two premier think tanks — the Carnegie Endowment and the Stimson Center — must be considered. “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan,” released last week, reads like an endorsement of Pakistan’s position and an apology for its army nurturing anti-India terrorists. Incidentally, the report prefers the word “extremists.”

Equally importantly, the report hyphenates India and Pakistan, a tendency declared outdated and pointless some time ago that should no longer find favor anymore with people in the know. But it does. The report hyphenates India and Pakistan to such an extent, it seems aimed more at making Indian entry into the NSG tougher while it pushes Pakistan’s case.

It begins by plaintively asking: “Will Pakistan be forever penalized because of the illicit activities of A.Q. Khan and his proliferation network? Will Pakistan remain outside the nonproliferation ‘mainstream’ despite its concerted efforts to quash the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) Pakistan and other extremist groups, because it is viewed as an accomplice to still others that carry out acts of violence against India – acts that could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons?”

The short answer should be “yes,” unless Pakistan firmly shuts down its terrorist enterprise.

The report then asks: “Or can Pakistan break from its past, change negative perceptions and become a “normal” nuclear state – or at least as “normal as India…?”

The short answer should be “no,” unless it abandons its revisionist stance and proves it over years.

But the report’s authors, Michael Krepon and Toby Dalton, take a journey of justification on Pakistan’s behalf, treating the terrorism it sponsors with half-shut eyes. They almost give the Pakistani army a free pass for sending jihadis into India, and appear to treat the venture as hearsay. Their narrow focus on Pakistan and how it can enter the nuclear mainstream to the exclusion of the wider problem of state sponsorship of terrorism is problematic.

The authors don’t ask that all terrorist groups be dismantled, leading one to presume that they agree with the Pakistani view that terrorists (LeT and others) attacking India will somehow have the good sense not to steal the country’s nuclear secrets.

They seem to approve Pakistan’s position that the TTP must be curbed first because it acts against the state and is more likely to endanger the country’s expanding nuclear arsenal. Yet, they write that a battle could be triggered by an attack by groups such as the LeT, without demanding action against it.

They offer five conditions that Pakistan must meet to become a “normal” nuclear state: shift from “full spectrum” to “strategic” deterrence, limit production of short-range missiles and tactical nuclear weapons, allow negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, separate civilian and military nuclear programs, and, finally, sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without waiting for India.

The accommodative stance is unlikely to go anywhere with Pakistani generals who have understood that keeping the West scared is one way to keep the money flowing and the attention from waning. It is best exemplified by Brig. Gen. Zahir Kazmi, who is quoted in the report saying, “It is the nonproliferation regime that must be normalized, not Pakistan.”

The message is clear: Pakistan will continue its dangerous and destabilizing behavior unless the world community gives in to its demands. This report goes a long distance toward showing how.

What’s distressing is that Krepon and Dalton maintain a parallel track of criticism against India where they claim that India’s “net contributions to stabilizing the global nuclear order have been modest, at best.” They further claim that the steps India needed to take after the nuclear deal have “fallen short of expectations.”

What is more noteworthy is that the Obama administration supports integration of Pakistan “into the international nonproliferation regime,” according to a U.S.-Pakistan joint statement issued on June 2, 2015.  There is no doubt that the State Department has a set of people entrenched in the nonproliferation bureau who are didactic and strongly oppose any favors to India. At the very least they may want the same for Pakistan.

There is little appetite in the international community for legitimizing Pakistan’s nuclear program, which while running at full steam, has added dangerous new elements (tactical nuclear weapons and short-range delivery missiles).

Unsurprisingly, the country that most closely mirrors Pakistan’s position is China. But and now it seems the U.S. position may also be moving in that direction.

Seema Sirohi is a Washington-based analyst and a frequent contributor to Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. Seema is also on Twitter, and her handle is @seemasirohi. 

This article was originally published at Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, a foreign policy think tank in Mumbai, India, established to engage India’s leading corporations and individuals in debate and scholarship on India’s foreign policy and the nation’s role in global affairs.