WASHINGTON, March 5: The Obama administration has implicitly accepted Pakistan’s status as a declared nuclear weapons state, countering conspiracy theories that the United States is secretly plotting to seize the country’s nuclear assets, says a US media report.
Another media report says that President Barack Obama plans to host talks between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh next month when they will be in Washington on April 12 for a nuclear security summit.
David Ignatius, a Washington Post associate editor, wrote in his newspaper on Thursday that the Obama administration had recently taken several steps to address Pakistani security concerns.
“One is to implicitly accept Pakistan’s status as a declared nuclear weapons state and thereby counter conspiracy theories that the United States is secretly plotting to seize Pakistani nukes.”
Mr Ignatius wrote that President “Obama made an early move in that direction when he told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper last June, ‘I have confidence that the Pakistani government has safeguarded its nuclear arsenal. It’s Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal’.”
While this move aims at allaying Pakistan’s fears that the United States may secretly try to undermine its nuclear programme, the hosting of talks with India reflects the US belief that improved relations between India and Pakistan will benefit the war against terror.
Diplomatic observers in Washington, however, say that since the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers will be meeting against the backdrop of the nuclear summit, “it is only natural that they will also discuss nuclear issues”.
Both India and the United States have expressed concern that any further deterioration in Pakistan could allow non-state actors to seize nuclear weapons.
Pakistan dismisses such concerns as unfounded and has urged the United States to offer it a nuclear deal like the one it concluded with India in 2008.
Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to US, said that America’s ‘explicit recognition’ could be useful “only if stops such propaganda otherwise Pakistan is already a nuclear weapons state, with or without America’s recognition”.
She suggested that instead of stopping at the recognition, the Obama administration should negotiate a nuclear deal with Pakistan, as it did with India.
Last month, a US scholar wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal, backing this demand. “More so than conventional weapons or large sums of cash, a conditions-based civilian nuclear deal may be able to diminish Pakistani fears of US intentions while allowing Washington to leverage these gains for greater Pakistani cooperation on nuclear proliferation and terrorism,” wrote C. Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University.
The US media links new US efforts to improve ties with Pakistan to progress in anti-terror war, resulting in arrest of several Taliban leaders since late last month.
Until recently, the US-Pakistan alliance against terror has been marked by mutual distrust and lack of confidence in each other, with American officials often claiming that Islamabad has retained its links to the Taliban to use them as a back-up to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan after the US and Nato forces withdraw.
On Friday, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told reporters at Forth Leavenworth’s army college that the United States had to continue to work at restoring trust among the Pakistanis after tensions caused by sanctions placed on the nation in the 1990s.
“If you don’t trust each other we’re not going to work together well,” he said.
Pakistan’s ambassador Husain Haqqani, after his meeting with Admiral Mullen, said the two nations were cooperating and had mutual interests in defeating the extremists, but relations would not be perfect with the United States just because of battlefield successes.
Mr Ignatius wrote that the US was also trying to combat Islamabad’s fears about covert US military or intelligence activities inside Pakistan.
“Ambassador Husain Haqqani has been negotiating measures for greater transparency, such as clearer labelling of official cargo. And the administration has repeated Mr Obama’s assurance last June (in his interview to Dawn) that “we have no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan,” wrote the Post’s associate editor.
The US media, however, noted that both sides still had some worries. The Pakistanis were now concerned that the United States might negotiate a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban that cut them out as an intermediary.
“In reconciliation talks, Pakistan must have a seat at the table,” said one Pakistani official. We should all be so lucky if this proves to be the biggest problem.
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