WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has refused to mark out India and Pakistan as countries that needed to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, saying instead that since they are “very special friends,” Washington holds daily conversations with them on such issues.
Ellen Tauscher, who as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security is responsible for the administration’s non-proliferation policies, however, indicated that the United States opposed other nations joining the nuclear club.
“The countries that you mentioned are very special friends of the United States. We have conversations with them every day about many different things,” said Secretary Tauscher when asked if Washington would also persuade India and Pakistan to join the NPT.
Instead of underlining the two South Asian nations, she spelled out the administration’s non-proliferation policy, saying: “We would like all countries to sign onto the NPT. We have a universality commitment, yes.”
At a briefing in Washington, the US official warned the world was more threatened now than it ever was during the Cold War as other nations and non-state actors sought nuclear capability.
“We have terrorist groups and organised crime and other bad actors that are looking to acquire nuclear technology, nuclear know-how and nuclear material,” she said. “And secondarily, we have more states looking to acquire nuclear weapons than we have had in the last 15 years.”
The statement shows a new US approach which focuses mainly on preventing countries like Iran from acquiring nuclear capability but also concedes that it is too late to persuade India and Pakistan to give up their nuclear programmes.
This approach was particularly noticeable at the 47-nation nuclear security summit in Washington last week when the Obama administration ignored non-proliferation activists demanding that India and Pakistan be forced to give up their nuclear programmes.Many among them singled out Pakistan, saying that since Pakistani scientists were found involved in proliferation activities in the past, Islamabad cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons.
US President Barack Obama, however, silenced these critics by saying that he trusts the country’s ability to protect its nuclear arsenals. “I feel confident about Pakistan’s security around its nuclear weapons programmes,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had made a range of new commitments to prevent proliferation and trafficking at the Washington summit.
The prime minister also presented documents at the conference expressing Pakistan’s desire to share nuclear fuel cycling and security expertise with other nations.
By doing so, Islamabad informed the international community that it had overcome its teething problems and was now ready to join other responsible nuclear states.
Pakistan felt the need to do so because it believed that the United States and other nuclear powers were trying to formalise the division between nuclear and non-nuclear states. Islamabad fears that those left on the other side of this divide will feel enormous international pressure to give up their nuclear programmes once this arrangement is formalised.
Pakistan also was encouraged by a nuclear deal the US signed with India, hoping that Washington will not try to single out the only Muslim state with nuclear weapons as it would send negative signals across the Muslim world.
At her briefing, Under Secretary Tauscher was also asked if she felt now was the time for India and Pakistan to cut down their nuclear arsenal or freeze their production capacity.
Ms Tauscher, who as a congresswoman had strongly opposed the US-India deal, said her views as a lawmaker were very different from her views as a senior US official.
“Congresswoman Tauscher and Under Secretary Tauscher occupy the same body but not in the same time. What I did in the Congress was one thing, and I get quite used to accepting when things pass and letting them go on.”
She acknowledged that as under secretary, she was now responsible for implementing the US-India nuclear agreement.
“I’m very honoured to have been in India late last year, we have a very vibrant and very significant relationship with India,” she added.