Pakistan Wants *more* Nukes?

by | April 6, 2009

Dawn says that Pakistan has a request in mind for Richard Holbrooke and Mike Mullen when they visit Islamabad this week:

‘As Pakistan is facing acute energy crunch, there is a strong possibility that we will ask Mr Holbrooke to help generate civil nuclear energy,’ [Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit]  said.

‘Pakistan is still pursuing its stance that there should not be fix[ed] criteria for all the countries to seek civil nuclear energy, rather it should be country to country based approach,’ he said.

This is bad in a couple of ways. First, I should think the last thing we want right now is for Pakistan to expand their nuclear capabilities. Yes, a civilan program is not the same as a military program. But there is considerable overlap between the two, and in general we just don't want more nuclear material of any sort sloshing around that country. 

Second, what I suspect this is about is--as with everything in Pakistan--India. Ignoring the strong protests of nonproliferation wonks, the Bush administration granted (and Congress recently approved) a waiver allowing civilian nuclear technology cooperation between US and Indian companies, ending a 30-year ban on such contacts imposed after India refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and developed its weapons program. Now Pakistan sees the special treament granted to its hated neighbor and is effectively saying, "Us, too!" Which is just the kind of thing people were warning Bush about.

This may also be a sign that Pakistan thinks it has leverage to start making all kinds of dodgy requests as we rely more heavily on their assistance in fighting Taliban-aligned extremists.

--Michael Crowley

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