Pakistan would have to exhibit “pristine behaviour” for a long time for normalisation of ties with the NSG, given its track record on nuclear proliferation, a former top US diplomat has said. Nicholas Burns was responding to a question during a two- day conference here as to why a civil nuclear deal should not be given to Pakistan. “Pakistan is going to have to exhibit pristine behaviour for a long time before the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are ever going to try to normalise relations and nuclear trade with Pakistan,” Burns told a Washington audience yesterday.
“I don’t know how long, long is. I would say a decade or more, before the rest of the international community is going to have trust in Pakistan given what the state did. Assuming that the Pakistani state sponsored the AQ Khan network, which I believe the Pakistani state did, most people do,” he said during the conference by South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, a top American think-tank.
Burns, who is considered to be one of the architects of the India-US civilian nuclear deal during the previous Bush administration, was responding to questions from a Pakistani scholar as to why her country was facing nuclear apartheid and India has been merged into mainstream. “When (then) secretary (of state) Condi Rice went to New Delhi in March 2005, she initiated it with prime minister (Manmohan Singh) saying the whole process, that led three years later to the passage of two American laws, would make an exception for India and allow the business of civil nuclear power plant construction for the supply of nuclear fuel that had been prohibited or under American sanctions that was the crux of the matter.
“We had observed that India had been a responsible owner, steward of its nuclear material. It had not proliferated on the black market and not sold it to other countries. That was the critical standard. We could not have gone… Secretary Rice and myself to the Congress Senate House and convinced them to hold two big difficult votes to take the sanctions off India if we could not point to the reality that he had been responsible,” he said.
He said that in 2005, despite the fact that the US was at a very close working relationship with then president Pervez Musharraf, it couldn’t make that argument about Pakistan. “We were living with the consequences very negative for nuclear stability of the AQ Khan network,” Burns said.
It is almost 13 years, Pakistan has worked a lot on the nuclear safety and security issues. These assurances has been given by the State Department as well and lots of reports have been published regarding the safety and security mechanisms, the Pakistani scholar from George Washington University said.
So still it is a life sentence or should Pakistan be given an opportunity to smooth its image, or behave like a more responsible nuclear weapons state, the student asked. Burns said it was the right decision by the Bush administration to leave Pakistan out of the civil nuclear deal.
“The US took a very firm position in the George W Bush administration that we wanted to be strategic partners with India that we felt that India had been a responsible steward of its nuclear material, it had and still is.
“We embarked on a three-year negotiation that I led for the US to try to bring India into the non-proliferation system, make it part of the system put India’s reactions under international observation and supervision and so that there will be transparency but allow the peaceful transfer of civil nuclear technology and the construction of nuclear power plants in India itself,” Burns said.
“I’m convinced it was the right decision. And frankly with all due respect I’m convinced it was the right decision to leave Pakistan out because Pakistan of course has been a proliferator unlike India of its nuclear material in a very destructive way through the AQ Khan network more than a decade ago,” he added.