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Pakistan’s N-programme as safe as ever: speakers

* Senate chairman says it is high time the world accepted Pakistan’s call for non-discriminatory nuclear cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a seminar on ‘Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament; Contemporary Challenges and Prospects’ on Wednesday expressed confidence in the steps taken by Pakistan for the safety and security of its nuclear programme.
The daylong seminar was organised by an Islamabad-based think tank – Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) – with the support of German Foundation Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).
Pakistan, which has had decades of experience of successful operation of nuclear power plants and an impeccable security record, has long sought access to civilian nuclear technology to meet its growing energy requirements and other civilian uses. 
However, the progress towards that goal has been impeded by unfounded concerns about the country’s programme.
Senate Chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said that it was now time that the world accepted Pakistan’s call for non-discriminatory nuclear cooperation. 
He said that regional peace and development was directly linked to nuclear safety. He said that every country had the right to benefit from advanced nuclear technology.
He said that Pakistan – because of a robust nuclear command-and-control structure and independent nuclear regulatory authority – had a flawless nuclear safety and non-proliferation record, a fact that had been admitted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on several occasions. 
The Senate chairman felicitated the president of the CPGS and the think tank’s team for organising such a wonderful event, which he said would provide an opportunity for sharing views and exchanging ideas on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament.
“Today, the civil nuclear technology is being utilised in diverse fields, such as basic and applied sciences, food, agriculture, biotechnology, human health and energy,” the chairman observed. He stated that Pakistan had been a reluctant entrant into the nuclear club, adding that it was compelled to pursue nuclear weapon course to ensure its national security. He expressed the hope that the seminar would provide a roadmap to facilitate and establish a framework for Pakistan’s case regarding global nuclear cooperation.
CPGS President Senator Sehar Kamran said that myths and misperceptions about Pakistan’s nuclear programme needed to be shed, because they were the outcome of a disinformation campaign against Pakistan for maligning its image. She advised the government to counter the propaganda against the nuclear programme through “logical rebuttals and proactive diplomacy”. 
Sehar Kamran warned that Western policies of nuclear cooperation – based on discrimination, exceptionalism, favouritism and geopolitical and commercial interests – could harm South Asia’s regional balance, peace and stability. 
The CPGS president reminded that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes with no known instance of diversion of material from civilian programme to the military programme.
Senate Defence Committee Chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, in his keynote address, stated that Western powers must shun double standards on the nuclear issue and treat India and Pakistan at par, otherwise their claims for nuclear non-proliferation would sound hollow and be seen as a triumph of political interests over principles.
“Pakistan was a reluctant entrant into the nuclear club but we thank India for going nuclear first, which enabled Pakistan to follow the suit,” he added, while recalling his memories of May 1998. Talking about the Indo-US nuclear deal, he said it had disastrous consequences for the region, because the deal was not about nuclear energy but about containing China, making India the regional hegemony in South Asia, and it helped inject India into Afghanistan. 
Moreover, it exposed the US double standards on the nuclear issue, as India was granted exemptions by violating the NPT and even US laws, he said. He stressed the need for resolving the Kashmir issue, as the region around Pakistan would remain volatile and unstable without resolving the core issue of Kashmir. He said that security could not be compartmentalised and there could be no nuclear disarmament or arms control without settling the Kashmir issue.
Dr Peter Lavoy, former US acting assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs (APSA), said there could be “real possibility of a legitimising nuclear deal between the United States and Pakistan”.
“Pakistan has long sought a nuclear deal with the US on the lines America has with India.” 
Dr Lavoy asked the Pakistani government to continue working towards “nuclear normalisation” with the US and other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). He said that such a move would help build sustainable trust between Pakistan and the NSG about “responsible custodianship of nuclear weapons”.
Mark Fitzpatrick, the director for non-proliferation and disarmament program of UK-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), said that fears about security of Pakistan’s nuclear material were quite often over-blown, and that there was insufficient recognition of the steps taken by the country to protect its nuclear programme.
China Association of Arms Control and Disarmament Vice Secretary General Hu Yumin noted the steps taken by the Pakistani government for protection of its nuclear facilities and material.

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