The Nuclear Deal Option

In a departure from its previous positions, the United States government is now open to the possibility of signing a nuclear deal with Pakistan. This development, fresh from the last week’s Strategic Dialogues, illustrate just how much the US-Pakistan relationship has changed.

Exactly four years ago, the idea of such a deal was latest blog post nipped in the bud , by then-President Bush.  Standing outside the presidential palace, Aiwan-e-Sadr, on March 4, 2006, President Bush clearly stated the US would treat Pakistan differently than it treated India. Whereas the US saw fit to grant one South Asian nation a nuclear deal, lifting a decades-old moratorium on fuel and reactor components, it did not see fit to so with another nation.

Pakistanis bristled at the contradictions in this policy, and rightly so.

Today we are in an entirely different phase of the relationship.

Students of history will remember President Bush spoke of the need to defend democracy all over the world in his second inaugural address, while fully supporting the military dictatorship of General Musharraf. Those students cannot help but compare that to today, when President Obama wholeheartedly supports the democratic process in Pakistan and the very real chance of a nuclear deal is on the table.

The inclusion of nuclear cooperation in the Dialogues says many things about the way the US has come to view Pakistan. Firstly, it declares the A.Q. Khan issue is finally behind us. The idea that this would no longer hinder cooperation between the two nations is something Pakistanis ought to be delighted with – for that has always been a thorn in the relationship. Secondly, we can now see proof that the US sees Pakistan as an equal ally to be granted respect. To all the anti-American pundits in Pakistani media, this must be truly upsetting – for they thrive on the idea the US secretly wants to take over Pakistan, and cannot be digesting this particular development very well.

It is truly wonderful to hear our Foreign Minister speak well of the talks. Mr Qureshi, in his interview to Reuters, said that meetings with US officials on nuclear cooperation, non-proliferation and export controls had gone well. “I am quite satisfied with the discussions we had,” Mr Qureshi said when asked about the nuclear cooperation issue.

As time goes on, we look forward to seeing more signs of cooperation on all fronts.

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