In June 2004, months after Khan’s “secret” proliferation exploits surfaced all over the media, President G. W. Bush designated Pakistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally” (MNNA). The designation, long enjoyed by Japan, South Korea, Australia and other allies, makes Pakistan eligible for expedited access to excess defence articles and other privileges and was perhaps related to Pakistan’s planned purchase of American weapons. Again, as one reflects on the dance around the Khan episode and the Bush administration’s MNNA designation, one is immediately reminded of the pas de deux (French for “step dance of two”) with Washington helping Pakistan to put up a dazzling show.
The United States has declared itself satisfied with Pakistans security measures for its nuclear weapons, despite the rise of the Pakistani Taliban and other extremist groups.
It should also be noted that there are a few in the United States who would like to see Washington abandon its antagonism toward the weapons development and bring Pakistan into the nuclear fold. For instance, academic C. Christine Fair in her 23 March Foreign Policy article “Should Pakistan Get a Nuke Deal?” says: “Because Pakistan fears U.S. intentions regarding its nuclear arsenal, only the United States can address Pakistan’s neuralgic insecurity by acknowledging the country as an accepted — rather than merely tolerated — nuclear power. The United States has formally conceded India as a de jure nuclear power and has long supported Israel’s program actively and passively. Pakistan is the third country that went nuclear outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and it wants the same explicit acceptance as the other two.”
Fair suggests that any civilian nuclear deal for Pakistan would have to be conditions-based. It would not be equivalent to India’s deal, which recognises India’s nonproliferation commitments and enables India to compete strategically with China globally. “A civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan has a different logic: to reset bilateral relations that are bedeviled with layers of mistrust on both sides.”
She says Pakistan disconcerts the world due to its nuclear proliferation record and because it supports myriad Islamist militants menacing the international community. “At the same time, the deal should address Pakistan’s chief concerns. Pakistan fears that the United States — perhaps in consort with India and Israel — seeks to dismantle its nuclear program. Such a deal would formally recognize Pakistan’s nuclear status and reward it for the considerable progress it has made to enhance its arsenal’s security since 2002.”
Islamabad fears that the further deterioration of bilateral relations would strengthen the hand of these terrorist groups, which have already gained a significant amount of ground within Pakistan in recent years.
But that is not to say that Fair’s views are widely shared within the administration. During the two-day (11–12 April) nuclear summit held in Washington, D.C., there were indications that Pakistani premier Yousuf Raza Gilani had come under increased pressure over his country’s nuclear arsenal when a Harvard study warned of “a very real possibility” that its warheads could be stolen by terrorists. The report was prepared by Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Titled “Securing the Bomb 2010,” it said Pakistan’s stockpile “faces a greater threat from Islamic extremists seeking nuclear weapons than any other nuclear stockpile on earth.” Experts said the danger was growing because of the arms race between Pakistan and India. The Institute for Science and International Security has reported that Pakistan’s second nuclear reactor, built to produce plutonium for weapons, shows signs of starting up operations, and a third is under construction.