Pakistan "Quite Satisfied" by Nuclear Discussions With U.S.

(Mar. 26) -Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, shown speaking at a press conference Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Qureshi yesterday said he was pleased with dialogue this week on potential U.S.-Pakistani civilian nuclear cooperation (Jewel Samad/Getty Images).
(Mar. 26) -Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, shown speaking at a press conference Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Qureshi yesterday said he was pleased with dialogue this week on potential U.S.-Pakistani civilian nuclear cooperation (Jewel Samad/Getty Images).

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi pronounced himself "quite satisfied" yesterday with talks in Washington on a nuclear trade pact with the United States, though a high-level U.S. official said there were no plans for official negotiations on a deal, Reuters reported (see GSN, March 25).

Islamabad is seeking access to U.S. nuclear material and technology in an accord akin to the deal reached by Washington and Pakistan's nuclear-armed rival, India. Senior Pakistani officials were in Washington this week for two days of high-level strategic talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials.

"I am quite satisfied with the discussions we had," Qureshi said in response to a query about the sought-after nuclear deal. "I would not like to expand on it at this stage."

When told of the foreign minister's comments, an Obama administration source emphasized that no official negotiations on the matter were in the works and that the U.S.-Pakistan joint statement issued following the strategic meetings did not touch on the nuclear issue.

"It is not on the table and the Pakistani views are well understood and we listened carefully to them," said the anonymous official.

The United States has been leery of allowing nuclear exports to Pakistan as Washington does not want to negatively impact relations with India and due to Pakistan's history of nuclear proliferation through the ring once led by the South Asian nation's former chief nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

"I think that is behind us" Qureshi said of Khan's smuggling operation. "I think they are pretty satisfied with security and safety systems in place in Pakistan and there is recognition of that," he added.

Experts doubt that the Obama administration would seriously pursue nuclear trade discussions with Islamabad and believe that Congress would not be likely to approve an atomic accord (Sue Pleming, Reuters, March 25).

"At the moment this looks like a nonstarter, but it shouldn't be," ex-State Department official Marvin Weinbaum told Agence France-Presse.

"There is no reason why we couldn't use this as a bargaining tool to get more cooperation, to say, 'This may not be something we can deliver now, but we would like to work something out with you,'" Weinbaum said.

Former Bush administration State Department official Lisa Curtis took a different view: "I think it's extremely premature to be talking about any civil nuclear cooperation."

It "would be more appropriate and important to be talking about conventional military cooperation, economic support and breaking down trade barriers," she said (Shaun Tandon, Agence France-Presse/Google News, March 25).

New Delhi reacted with trepidation to the news that Obama officials were going to listen to Pakistan's nuclear request this week, the Australian reported.

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna called on Washington to have a "holistic view ... the U.S. should consider Pakistan's track record before any deal."

"We can tell (the U.S.) you're free to go back to your mistress but there will be certain consequences," former Indian Ambassador to the United States Satish Chandra said.

"We need to exercise our leverage with the U.S. to set out our own interests," he said (Amanda Hodge, Australian, March 25).

In their joint statement, Pakistan and the United States pledged to "redouble their efforts to deal effectively with terrorism," the New York Times reported.

Obama sources said a delivery to Islamabad of U.S. weaponry that includes fighter jets and drone aircraft would probably be sped up (Mark Landler, New York Times, March 25).

March 26, 2010
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Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi pronounced himself "quite satisfied" yesterday with talks in Washington on a nuclear trade pact with the United States, though a high-level U.S. official said there were no plans for official negotiations on a deal, Reuters reported (see GSN, March 25).

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