At high-level strategic talks today in Washington, Pakistan's foreign minister reiterated his country's request for a civilian nuclear deal with the United States, Bloomberg reported (see GSN, March 19).
Promising to support U.S. efforts to suppress extremists, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Islamabad wanted Washington's aid in "nuclear cooperation."
Islamabad has long made known its desire to have a nuclear trade pact with Washington, similar to the deal former President George W. Bush struck with Pakistan's nuclear-armed rival India.
"At the end of the day it is in the mutual interest of our nations to work together," Qureshi said in a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "We will meet you more than halfway" (Peter Green, Bloomberg, March 24).
Strategic talks between the two nations were scheduled to continue through tomorrow.
"India and Pakistan, we have been in this together in South Asia, so what is good for India should be good for Pakistan," Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said yesterday.
Responding to a reporter's question yesterday on whether civilian nuclear assistance could help alleviate Pakistan's energy shortages, Clinton said there were "more immediate steps that can be taken," such as improving the nation's power facilities, Agence France-Presse reported.
Washington is leery of agreeing to provide nuclear technology or material to Pakistan, given the South Asian state's history of proliferation through former top nuclear scientist and black marketeer Abdul Qadeer Khan (see GSN, March 23).
U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said "we're ready to listen to anything" (Agence France-Presse/Sifiy.com, March 24).
Islamabad has provided U.S. officials with a 56-page list of requests that include discussions on nuclear collaboration and additional military equipment, Reuters reported.
A Washington official said that a nuclear trade pact with Pakistan would need full approval of the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group in addition to U.S. congressional support -- something that took a long time for New Delhi to attain (Pleming/Stewart, Reuters/Yahoo!News, March 23).
Holbrooke yesterday would not respond to a query on whether Pakistan should be officially acknowledged as a nuclear-armed state. He said it would not be "productive" to address the issue, the Associated Press reported.
However, Bashir said Pakistan's status was a "reality" that could not be dismissed. "There is no doubt about that," he said.
Clinton yesterday would not elaborate on Washington's stance on Pakistan's request for nuclear cooperation.
"We're going to be considering it, but I can't prejudge or pre-empt what the outcome of our discussions will be," she told Pakistan's Express TV Group (Matthew Lee, Associated Press/Google News, March 24).
While the U.S. State Department was being circumspect about its stance on negotiations for a nuclear trade deal, powerful Senate lawmakers have been more vocal about their opposition to the idea, Foreign Policy magazine reported.
"I don't think it's on the table right now considering all [of] the other issues we have to confront," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) told the magazine's The Cable blog. "There are countless things that they would have to do in order to achieve it. If they're willing to do all those things, we'll see."
"It's appropriate as something for them to aspire to and have as a goal out there, but I don't think it's realistic in the near term," Kerry added.
Ranking panel member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said he thought it was "premature" for talks of a nuclear trade deal (Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, March 23).
A move by Islamabad earlier this week to relaunch a probe into Khan's nuclear smuggling ring is broadly thought to be seen as an attempt to appease the United States, the Times of India reported.
"What happened under A.Q Khan was a mistake. We are very keen to seek civil nuclear reactors from the U.S. and we want to demonstrate to them that proliferation will neither ever be allowed or tolerated again in Pakistan," an anonymous Pakistani Foreign Ministry official said to U.S. network television (Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India, March 22).