India Fears U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

The meeting today between Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif and President Obama at the White House is a continuation of a dangerous charade engaged in for decades by the United States. By perceiving Pakistan, a failed Islamic terrorist state, as a valuable strategic ally when it, in fact, has a blatant history of actions and circumstances to the contrary, the United States is pursuing a delusional foreign policy that further endangers American national security.

The meeting with Pakistan occurs at a time when the ink is barely dry on the dubious Iran bomb deal. Now, President Obama stands poised to sign a second nuclear agreement that will threaten U.S. ally, India, and likely destabilize the region. The first agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was led by the United States and finalized in July.  Six world powers endorsed giving Iran a sure path to nuclear weapons, lifting international sanctions, providing a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, putting neighboring Israel and Arab Gulf states at grave risk and proscribing timely, comprehensive inspections.  Nearly 60% of Americans oppose the JCPOA and believe it will make the world less safe, according to a national poll in August by Quinnipiac University.

A possible second nuclear agreement, perceived by India and Hindu activist groups as inimical to that region’s security and to India’s interests, could be brokered during the meeting.  A White House spokesman played down the prospect of an agreement, yet expressed confidence in Pakistan’s ability to “understand the importance and high priority that the world places on nuclear security.”  This statement rings hollow in light of the recent signing of the much-maligned JCPOA.

In the wake of the widely opposed Iran deal, the White House could again be making unrealistic assumptions: this time about Pakistan’s cooperation and the likelihood of mutual agreements on inspections.  India's skepticism is heightened by the U.S. lack of timely intelligence about the activities of the A.Q. Khan network, named after Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, which has provided illicit nuclear information to Iran, North Korea and Libya over several decades.  Of equal concern is U.S. unwillingness to take decisive action to curtail the activity after the fact.  Also, little faith exists in the U.S. capacity for oversight concerning Pakistan's nuclear ambitions.

Many fear that Obama will repeat his Iran debacle in yet another ill-conceived nuclear agreement.  This despite Pakistan's long record of supporting Islamic terrorism, including its role in the 9/11 attacks, its sheltering of Osama bin Laden, its past nuclear proliferation, its aggression toward U.S. ally India, and its interference in U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has long been a haven for Islamic terrorist groups which successive Pakistani governments have engaged and supported in insurgent activities in Afghanistan and India.  The Pakistan Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) has been accused by the West of aiding Islamic terrorist groups, including Laskar e-Toiba, perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2006 Varanasi bombing and the 2001 shooting in the Indian Parliament.  The ISI has also provided training and assistance for hundreds of mujahedeen attacks in Jammu and Kashmir that have left more than 47,000 people dead.  Since 9/11, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan by the Pakistani-trained and supported Taliban.  After coalition forces overthrew the Taliban as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, then-President Musharraf authorized the release from jail of 2,500 suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters caught in Afghanistan during the war. 

In 2011, the revelation surfaced that, despite repeated denials, Pakistan had long been harboring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden while at the same time Pakistan maintained its position as a “partner in the global war on terror’ (GWOT), conferred by the Bush administration, and received $31 billion in U.S. aid since 9/11. 

In response, the United States threatened to withdraw military aid if Pakistan failed to crack down on regional Islamic terrorism. Successive American administrations conditioned aid based on Pakistan meeting vague goals that demonstrated a commitment to combatting terrorist groups in their midst.  Yet, the State Department has consistently waived these conditions.  Additionally, Pakistan has been the recipient of generous Coalition Support Funds (CSF) that reimburse its dubious counter-terrorism operations.  This even though a 2008 Rand Corporation study disclosed that individuals within Pakistan’s government are providing assistance to the Taliban and other Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan, effectively crippling American attempts to stabilize the country.  The study singled out Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence, the ISI, as the key culprit.  Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the FBI and Indian intelligence disclosed that former ISI head, General Mahmud Ahmed ordered that $100,000 be wired to Pakistani 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.

In 2004 A. Q. Khan confessed to abetting nuclear proliferation.  A letter from Khan to his wife, discovered in 2003, revealed that the Pakistani military had full knowledge of Khan's nuclear deals.  According to national security expert Bill Gertz, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report from 2001 disclosed that Iran was building enriched uranium-based nuclear arms with assistance from the Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan network.

Following U.S. exposure of the network in 2004, neither Khan nor his co-conspirators faced criminal charges in Pakistan.  The Bush administration at the time sought then-Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf’s assistance in the war in Afghanistan to rout Al Qaeda and the Taliban and U.S. nuclear proliferation concerns took a back seat to the region’s geostrategic interests.  In noteworthy contrast, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was banned from the U.S. for close to a decade based on false and eventually disproven charges that he failed to stop deadly riots between Muslims and Hindus in the state of Gujarat when he was a newly elected chief minister. 

According to a story in the UK Telegraph, world intelligence agencies concur that the Saudis have paid for more than half of Pakistan's nuclear program in return for the ability to purchase warheads.  Concern has arisen that the recent nuclear deal with Iran will serve as a catalyst for more nuclear proliferation in the region as Saudi Arabia calls in its warhead chits.

Even during periods of economic distress, Pakistan managed to finance nuclear weapons production.  In 1972, President Zulfikar Bhutto, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program said if India built an atomic bomb, “we will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”  In 1974, when India did successfully test a nuclear device, Bhutto proclaimed that Pakistan must develop its own “Islamic bomb.”

In an effort to quell negative publicity and criticism about the upcoming meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister, the White House has downplayed the likelihood of any upcoming nuclear deal with Pakistan and characterized Prime Minister Sharif's visit to the White House as part of an ongoing dialogue on the importance of nuclear security. 

Given Pakistan’s troubled history with Islamic terrorist groups, U.S. officials have been justifiably concerned about the security of its nuclear arsenal.  Obama indicated that in this week’s meeting he would urge the Pakistani leader to end sanctuaries for the Taliban and press them to return to peace talks in order to bring a semblance of stability to Afghanistan.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Obama's primary objectives for the meeting are preventing Pakistan's nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of Islamic terrorist groups and exploring a deal to provide Pakistan greater access to nuclear technology in exchange for limits on Pakistan's arsenal.  This is reminiscent of Obama's recent ill-advised offer of state-of-the-art nuclear equipment to Iran to downsize its nuclear program.

The Indian government is justifiably concerned that any U.S.-Pakistan nuclear agreement will result in Pakistan’s strategic parity with India.  In 2005, India signed a civil nuclear deal, the 123 Agreement, with the U.S., lifting a three-decade moratorium on nuclear trade. The agreement provided assistance to India’s civilian energy program and established cooperation between the U.S. and India on related technology.  The Indian government is justifiably concerned that Pakistan will be awarded a similar deal to ostensibly enhance a dubious strategic relationship.  In contrast, India has been a trustworthy ally, not harbored, armed or trained Islamic terrorists, not provided nuclear materials to other countries nor been responsible for the death of Americans.  What’s more is that India is a significant bilateral trading partner that is not dependent on U.S. military or economic aid. 

India is also concerned that a U.S.-Pakistan agreement would exert greater pressure on India to make concessions in Kashmir, a region long disputed between India and Pakistan.  In the past, Pakistan has attempted to engage the U.S. to further its interests in Kashmir and shift the balance of power in the region away from India.

Additionally, India fears that increased U.S. aid to Pakistan that will be used to foment terrorism in India and Afghanistan.  Until 2010, India had been a "no first use" nuclear power, a policy never adopted by Pakistan.  India's policy changed when Pakistan increased its nuclear weapons production and stockpile of fissile material and joined the "nuclear 100 club," doubling its nuclear arsenal from 2007. 

India has valid concerns about Obama’s upcoming White House meeting as yet another nuclear deal could further inflame the already volatile region.  Recently, Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Saud declared, “Iran’s nuclear program poses a direct threat to the entire region and constitutes a major source and incentive for nuclear proliferation across the Middle East.” 

Whereas India has been a reliable ally and substantial trading partner, Pakistan has harbored, supported and trained Islamic terrorists, been responsible for the death of Americans, interfered with U.S. operations in Afghanistan causing military fatalities, fomented violent jihad in India, engaged in clandestine nuclear proliferation and soaked up billions in U.S. aid.  A nuclear agreement with the Islamic state of Pakistan would further incite the situation in South Asia and beyond, lead to increased destabilization and foster a widespread nuclear arms race.