Pakistan ambivalent on IAEA vote over India-specific pact


Islamabad : Despite sustained US pressure, Pakistan is still ambivalent on whether or not it will seek a vote when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meets Friday to consider an India-specific safeguards agreement to take forward the nuclear deal with the US.

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“For us, national security is supreme and the government will do everything in its power to defend it,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said at his weekly press briefing Monday.

Pakistan, one of the 35 members of the IAEA board, has described the draft of the safeguards agreement as “discriminatory and dangerous” and called for its amendment.

However, bowing to US pressure, Pakistan is known to have dropped plans to send a special envoy to China in a bid to persuade it to oppose India in both the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which, after the safeguards agreement is in place, is likely to amend its laws to enable the resumption of nuclear commerce with India after a gap of over three decades.

These two steps will make the India-US civilian nuclear deal operational.

“Pakistan’s principled position on the issue is that a non-discriminatory approach based on objective criteria on access to civilian nuclear technology should be adopted, offering equal opportunity to both Pakistan and India by meeting the relevant benchmarks,” the Dawn newspaper said Tuesday.

At the same time, it noted that Pakistan’s call for a vote “will be merely symbolic given the fact that the US and other key world powers are backing the (India-US) agreement”.

Indicative of Washington’s pressure on Pakistan was a recent statement by US Ambassador to India David Mulford that his government was talking to Pakistan and was confident Islamabad would see the issue “in the right light” and “be cooperative”.

“Wary of Pakistan’s opposition, India has launched an intense diplomatic effort to win support for the nuclear deal in the IAEA board,” Dawn said.

That Pakistan was fighting a lost cause was evident Monday, with a widely respected security expert saying its efforts to block India at the IAEA had “come to a grinding halt”.

Soon after Pakistan wrote a letter to the IAEA board seeking a vote, “the US got moving and conveyed to Islamabad that Pakistan had already given a commitment, through a previous foreign secretary, that it will offer no opposition to the US pursuing India-specific exceptions at the IAEA and the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group)”, Shireen M. Mazari wrote in The News.

As a result, the Pakistani foreign ministry “was asked to stop all activities meant to counter India-US moves on safeguards and technology exports at the IAEA and the NSG respectively”.

“The net result has been that all diplomatic efforts by Pakistan have come to a grinding halt and the special envoy’s mission (to follow up on the letter) had to be aborted midway,” Mazari wrote in the article, headlined “Pak N-diplomacy comes to a full stop”.

A former director general of think tank Institute of Strategic Studies, Mazari’s views are considered to be a form of Pakistani nationalism. She is currently the group editor of The News.