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Prospects for US-Pak Civilian Nuclear Deal

Prospects for US-Pak Civilian Nuclear Deal

President Asif Ali Zardari, in a meeting with Director of US National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, urged US to assist Pakistan in its own civilian nuclear technology deal to help overcome its dire energy needs. President had suggested that this kind of deal will not only bridge the trust deficit between the two countries, but also address many misperceptions about US inside Pakistan.

Some of those misperceptions are based on many conspiracy theories that are the limelight of Pakistani drawing rooms and various media outlets. Although most being hypothetical, some of those theories are based on the burden of history that the two countries carry in their relationship.

For the entire history of Pakistan, the relationship with United States has been a love-hate one, which at times had made them the most-allied-ally and at others axes-of-evil. It is a relationship that has almost always revolved around the security aspect and has been mostly with the Pakistan’s military establishment.

Since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s last visit to Pakistan, the US has been giving more attention to Pakistan’s economic and energy needs, rather than just the security and counter-terrorism. Ms. Clinton had stated that US will like to address Pakistan’s energy problem in a way that stands out and which will in-turn help create a better image of United States in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s energy problem is not only impacting its economy but its security as-well. There is an urgent need to produce more energy and meet the industrial and economic demands for today and the future. Currently Pakistan is producing 80% of its required electric demand, which is causing massive blackouts all around the country. United States can use this as an opportunity to tackle a problem that impacts the ordinary people directly and create a lot goodwill and a positive image.

Just recently the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke expressed Americas concern to help Pakistan with its economic and energy needs. He believes that it is the right time, in the US-Pakistan relationship, that more of US attention and resources can be diverted to help Pakistan.

The right time it is, as US and Pakistani intelligence forces are doing joint operations to capture high valued terrorist targets, reducing the trust deficit that existed 13 months ago. These unprecedented moves to build the trust between the two countries can go a long way paving the way for a new era of relations.

C Christine Fair, in her Wall Street Journal article “Pakistan Needs Its Own Nuclear Deal“, stressed on a need to make a civilian nuclear pact with Pakistan. She argues that it will help reduce the trust deficit and serve mutual interest of US and Pakistan. It will give US a leeway in asking for tougher demands such as “Pakistani cooperation on nuclear proliferation and terrorism.” She suggests that a deal like this could be very meaningful to the Pakistanis, which could also help in getting Pakistan to adhere to some of the tougher conditions on the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation.

Ever since the US-India Civilian Nuclear deal, the Pakistanis have been yearning for equal treatment as a partner in the war on terror. They believe if a deal like this was possible for the Indians, why can’t the front-line-state on war on terror can get a similar deal. Although US has stated that its relationship with India is different than the one with Pakistan, does not mean that Pakistan cannot have a similar relationship with the United States in the future.

Ms. Christine Fair had suggested on having a “conditions-based civilian nuclear deal,” that will not only help US to convince Pakistanis to comply with nuclear non-proliferation demands, but also shut all terror organizations and revert from the strategy of proxy wars and strategic depth in Afghanistan using those organizations.

Pakistan could raise this issue as the two countries meet, March 24th, for another round of negotiations. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who will be chairing this meeting, suggested that he wants to see some action on American side. The agenda of the meeting includes in-depth discussions on various issues including energy.

Although it is likely that some form of energy plan might be announced after the US-Pak dialogue, it is far-fetched to believe that some type of civilian nuclear deal might be one of the options. Although, It might be too early to imagine the two countries getting to this level of confidence, it is not entirely impossible. Pakistan could follow India’s footsteps and do extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill if it wants to go this direction. Of-course it will require Pakistan to focus on internal issues and stability inside Pakistan, before it can get into this kind of contract or even imagine it happening.