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Asia-pacific

Can Pakistan control its nuclear stockpiles?

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2010-04-12

As world leaders gather for the Nuclear Security Summit, Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation record will come under intense scrutiny. Nuclear expert Marcin Zaborowski tells FRANCE 24 what is at stake.

Leaders from 46 nations are in Washington for a two-day nuclear non-proliferation summit. Iran and North Korea have not been invited and the Israeli prime minister will not be attending, raising questions over just how much summit host US President Barack Obama can achieve.

But the presence of the Indian and Pakistani leaders has raised hopes that progress can be made on Pakistan, a country with a reputation as a nuclear proliferator.

Obama has called on the Nuclear Security Summit to reach an agreement on steps to secure nuclear material to stop it falling into the hands of militant groups such as al Qaeda.

Pakistan, along with India, Israel and North Korea, are not signatories to the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). And the two countries who have no been invited to the summit – Iran and North Korea – have both allegedly benefited from the smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and a national hero.

Marcin Zaborowski, from the Paris-based EU Institute of Security Studies (EUISS), explains the challenges and opportunities for arch-foes and nuclear rivals India and Pakistan at the summit.

FRANCE 24: What are India’s concerns at the Nuclear Security Summit?

Marcin Zaborowski: India has very openly expressed concerns about the threat of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists. It is not concerned with the Pakistani government in itself, but with its ability to fully control its [nuclear] materials.

India did develop nuclear devices and weapons in secrecy, and was not an accepted member of the community of nuclear states, but this is no longer its concern. India is not considered a pariah state because of the nuclear cooperation deal it reached with the US under the Bush administration. [In 2008, Washington and New Delhi signed the Indo-US treaty on civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries.]


Pakistan would like to have the same kind of deal that has been offered to the Indians, but I don’t think they’ll get it. Pakistan is a huge, unstable country, with a very different situation from India. The Pakistani government does not fully control its armed forces, and the armed forces do not fully control its intelligence services. For India, securing Pakistan’s materials is the whole point of attending the summit.

FRANCE 24: So what is the Pakistani point of view?

M.Z.: They have a legitimate complaint that they are the victims of a double standard, since both Pakistan and India are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the idea that “you did it for India, why not for Pakistan”. They would like to be seen as treated on an equal footing as the Indians.

Some kind of gesture for future cooperation, the groundwork for a partnership, could improve Pakistani public opinion of the US and the West in general, but it all has to start with the US. At the time of the Indian accord with the US, Europe was very critical, but now Europeans are making deals with India too.

FRANCE 24: What is the best the US can hope from Pakistan at the summit?

M.Z.: The idea is to make Pakistan’s nuclear materials the subject of international inspections, which all depends on what the Pakistanis are offered.

The best that could be hoped for is an NPT-II, an attempt to produce a new regime which will bind these two powers. The new treaty would have a new focus, from the diminishing of stockpiles to securing nuclear materials, ensuring they do not get into the hands of potential terrorists.

Since Pakistan is seen as very vulnerable, that would be a huge accomplishment for the Obama administration. A victory in relation to Pakistan would get him much-needed support in the US Congress towards ratifying the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. [On April 8, 2010, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the historic new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). But the new treaty has yet to be ratified by the Russian Duma and the US Congress.]

Date created : 2010-04-12

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