There is a strange silence in the Pakistani capital on new US-mounted nuclear pressures, but Pakistani diplomats and nuclear experts are speaking up where the Pakistani state is silent.
GULPARI NAZISH MEHSUD
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-There are new pressures on Pakistan to limit its ability to maintain a credible nuclear deterrence. These pressures are coming from the Conference on Disarmament, or CD as it is known, that opens today in Geneva. The United States is working on two tracks. One is to induct India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and end the last barrier that stops India from procuring nuclear technology and material in the open market. And two, use international treaties to force Pakistan to freeze Pakistani nukes at their current size and potential.
While US officials use public diplomacy to send messages through Radio Pakistan and other arms of the pro-US government in Islamabad claiming Washington has no interest in targeting the Pakistani nuclear program, US actions speak louder about the actual US policy toward Pakistan’s strategic capabilities.
The Pakistani government is maintaining a strange silence on the new pressures on its nuclear capabilities. Other departments of the government that shape Pakistan’s nuclear policy, like the Nuclear Command Authority, are also silent apparently in deference to the incumbent government.
To break this silence, a Pakistani nuclear expert Dr. Shireen Mazari took the initiative to sensitize the Pakistani media about the new developments in Geneva. She organized a one-day closed-door briefing for senior Pakistani journalists. Over eight hours, participants were briefed about the new pressures on Pakistani diplomacy on the country’s nuclear program. The workshop covered Pakistan’s position on a new treaty, called FMCT, that would stop Islamabad from developing material needed to build nuclear weapons, a treaty that Islamabad is resisting for the time being. Participants also went through the evidence-based record of India in nuclear proliferation which belies Washington’s claims that India has a clean proliferation record.
But Dr. Mazari is not alone. Ambassador Zamir Akram has told CD that Pakistan does not accept the US-led tilt in favor of India on nuclear technology. In Islamabad, an eminent former top diplomat of Pakistan, former foreign minister Mr. Inam-ul-Haq, joined in conducting the workshop. Strategic Technology Resource, which organized the workshop and is headed by Dr. Mazari, plans to offer Pakistani legislators similar exposure to position them to understand government policy.
The diplomatic correspondent of The News Mariana Baabar wrote an excellent report on the workshop and on Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts in Geneva. The report is reproduced below:
Pakistan Not Interested In Disarmament Conference
By Mariana Baabar
As the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the world’s sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations, holds the first public plenary of its 2011 session on Tuesday (January 25) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, how well informed is the civilian government, political parties, parliamentarians and the civil society in Pakistan?
Traditionally, it is the National Command Authority (NCA), a military dominated and controlled organisation set up by Pervez Musharraf, which is responsible for ‘policy formulation and the exercise of employment and development control over all strategic nuclear forces and strategic organisations’.
There is neither any interest nor debate on strategic matters in our nuclear state. The last time loud public voices were heard in support to test a nuclear device, completely drowning out those who were against the nuclear test.
Normally, mere statements are issued by the ISPR, NCA and the Foreign Office, while some experts do respond to queries of journalists. Worse, this highly complex and specialised field remains in the domain of the military, though heading it is the prime minister and a clutch of federal ministers, who are quite satisfied with their symbolic presence and have never opted to inform the parliament on Pakistan’s position.
To change this mindset and allow transparency and space for debate, the Strategic Technology Resource (STR), a recently set up organisation, held a one day workshop, ‘Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Beyond’, to familiarise journalists on co-related issues like CTBT, FMCT and other issues.
It’s CEO Dr Shireen Mazari and former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inamul Haq who explained why 2011 would be a difficult year for Pakistan when pressure will be increased specially wtih regard to FMCT.
The speakers underlined fears that like in the past, the United States could take the FMCT out of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the United Nations, as it became frustrated with its present slow pace.
The NCA’s stand on FMCT is that ‘Pakistan’s position will be determined by its national security interests and the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia. Selective and discriminatory measures that perpetuate regional instability, in any form and manner, derogate from the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and; therefore, cannot be accepted or endorsed. Pakistan will not support any approach or measure that is prejudicial to its legitimate national security interests’.
Mazari called for the policymakers to take a consistent stand on issues unlike in the past. She also said today’s environment called for Pakistan’s specific thinking on strategic issues and not necessarily linked to India as had been the norm.
“I will like our media to be aware and knowledgeable enough to respond to the debate in the international media on these issues, specially when it pertains to Pakistan, instead of dutifully publishing western reports,” she added.
A media kit was distributed which contained interesting facts and figures. Included were authentic reports on India’s proliferation record, Japan’s nuclear doublespeak, a letter written by Pakistan’s permanent representative in Vienna to member states of IAEA and copies of statements delivered by Ambassador Zamir Akram at a past Conference on Disarmament.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will address the conference on Wednesday. According to the UN, like in previous years, the items on the agenda of the conference in 2011 will be cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons, radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament; transparency in armaments; and consideration and adoption of the annual report and any other report, as appropriate, to the General Assembly of the United Nations.