ISLAMABAD: A former State Department non-proliferation official has called for offering Pakistan a path to nuclear normalcy in the same way that India was de facto accepted into the nuclear club when it negotiated a civil nuclear deal with the US and was brought into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Mark Fitzpatrick, the director of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme, International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), UK, said this while addressing a public talk show after the launch of his book Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI).
Fitzpatrick suggested that Pakistan should negotiate the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and sign the Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to give it a diplomatic high ground and to lock in India’s nuclear weapon potential, which was much greater than Pakistan’s, should it choose to develop it.
He recommended the path to negotiation for India and Pakistan for dealing with issues that may spark a nuclear war/conflict. He advised the government of Pakistan to suppress extremist groups in order to reduce the dangers of seizure of nuclear assets.
Mark Fitzpatrick presented a perspective on the dangers associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons that was a refreshing break from most Western perspectives. He presented a balanced view on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons – recognising the legitimate dangers but at the same time conceding that the Western media tends to exaggerate them. Among the major concerns that he highlighted were the potential for escalation of South Asia’s strategic arms race, the subsequent increased potential for theft, and nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents as well as concerns that Pakistan’s nuclear weapon technology might again be transferred to nuclear aspirants. Above all was the potential for a nuclear war; possibly triggered by terrorist activities, such as in the case of 2008 Mumbai attacks.
He identified that while the danger of extremist groups getting hold of nuclear weapons was possible in theory, the threat was exaggerated out of proportion in the Western media. Similarly, he highlighted the case of proliferation by the AQ Khan network, but at the same time pointed out that Pakistan had put in place stringent export control, and taken measures to ensure it did not happen again. For this reason, he argued, and more than a decade after AQ Khan network was dismantled, it was time to move on and relieve Pakistan of the burden of the stigma that came with the proliferation scandal.
Fitzpatrick termed Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal as one of the fastest growing in the world. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal presently estimated to be around 120 was projected to be over 200 by year 2020, which was a cause of great concern for major powers around the world.
Earlier, ISSI Chairman Ambassador (r) Khalid Mahmood opened the event with his welcome remarks and underlined Pakistan’s security compulsion vis-à-vis India in pursuing a nuclear weapons programme when all avenues to keep South Asia a nuclear free zone were exhausted.
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