The civilian factor

Editorial April 13, 2010

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will be hoping to return from the US with a prize Islamabad has set its eyes on for a very long time: assistance for its nuclear programme in the civilian sector.

The fact that India has already been granted this by the US means the prize is a particularly coveted one. The omens are good. The invitation to Pakistan to attend the nuclear security summit marks a change in tone. The decrease in levels of hostility was obvious also in March, when a high-powered team led by Pakistan’s foreign minister visited Washington. At that time too the issue of granting Pakistan nuclear status dominated talks.

Washington is quite obviously keen to establish stronger ties with Pakistan. It has acknowledged too that the country has done well to combat militancy. It must however realize that a change in attitudes towards the US within the towns and cities of Pakistan is essential to any real, long-term transformation in the rather awkward relations between the two countries. Even now suspicion for the US runs deep and is shared by people who stand at all places on the political spectrum. This change can come only when people see the relationship is one that brings concrete gains. The use of nuclear energy for civilian purposes could offer just this. As a start it could provide much needed respite to ordinary people reeling from massive loadshedding every day and in turn could help ward off power riots.

This is alone a strong reason for Pakistan to receive what it seeks. There are others too. Discrimination only upsets the delicate balance of power in the region. Islamabad must not be denied the trust reposed in New Delhi. By ensuring the balance is kept, Washington would do a great deal to win friends and build a strong partnership with Pakistan that can serve both countries and their people well.


Nadir El Edroos | 12 years ago | Reply A nuclear deal is all well and good. But a deal on paper hasn't really translated into anything in substance. Its been five years since the US "offered" the deal to India, the US congress and senate recently ratified it while the Indian Lok Sabha has yet to ratify. While we seem very eager for a nuclear deal, we should keep an eye on India where sizeable political forces are voicing concerns over what the US is offering, and believe that it will compromise Indian sovereignty (Sound familiar!) Point being, that while any support that Pakistan can get in civilian nuclear technology is desirable: a) it dosnt solve our immediate problems b) if a deal was offered tomorrow, it would be many years before it passed through the US Senate and Congress, The ROZ bill for example has been dead for the past 4 and a half years. c) The terms and conditions of any deal would be stringent, it would be the K-L Bill fiasco all over again. Be careful what you wish for!
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