Pakistan under renewed pressure for nuke freeze
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is under immense pressure from powerful countries led by the US to freeze its nuclear programme by agreeing to a controversial treaty that bans production of fissile materials to make atomic bomb.
Western powers, which are pushing for a deal on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), have threatened to take Pakistan’s case to the UN Security Council if it did not sign the longstanding agreement, disclosed a senior official of the country’s nuclear establishment.
“You can’t even imagine what kind of pressures is being exerted on Pakistan,” said the official, who is associated with the Strategic Plans Division (SPD). Headed by Gen Khalid Kidwai, the SPD controls the country’s nuclear arsenal.
In a rare background conversation, the SPD official told The Express Tribune that Western powers particularly the US have been using ‘coercive measures’ for the last several months against Pakistan.
“They have threatened to take our case to the UNSC … they are even threatening us with isolation,” he added.
However, the country’s political and military leadership have so far resisted the pressure as they believe bowing to such demands will seriously undermine the country’s national security, said a top foreign office official. “It’s a Pakistan-specific treaty,” the official added. “The FMCT will not harm big powers because they have surplus nuclear fuel,” he said.
He said Pakistan will have to open its nuclear facilities to international inspections if it signs the FMCT. “This is certainly unacceptable,” he maintained.
The idea of placing a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons has been discussed for a long time, and the talks broke down in 1995. Since then, there has been very little formal progress.
However, US President Barack Obama is trying to revive the process. At the nuclear summit held in January this year in Washington, President Obama expressed disappointment over Pakistan’s refusal to sign the FMCT. Islamabad has been accused of being a major roadblock in the way of finalising an accord on FMCT, which envisages a ban on the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
One of the key objectives of the FMCT is to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on the fissile material. Western countries fear Pakistan is the most likely country, where this could happen. “This is ridiculous,” said another official.
Pakistan believes FMCT must include existing stocks otherwise the imbalance of power in the world will simply be further enhanced. Its reluctance to sign the treaty is also attributed to the discriminatory policies of the West on civilian nuclear cooperation.
“Some states have been denied the right to peaceful nuclear cooperation while others are supported in promoting unsafe nuclear programmes,” asserted the official in a clear reference to Indo-US nuclear deal.
“With its current form and conditions, Pakistan will never sign the FMCT,” remarked Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit.