Pakistan Warns U.S.-India Nuclear Ties May Destabilize Region

Pakistan has warned that growing U.S. cooperation with India on its civilian nuclear program could destabilize a region with a quarter of the world’s people.

President Barack Obama announced during a three-day trip to New Delhi this week that the U.S. would support India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group. He also said the countries reached a breakthrough that would pave the way for investment in its civilian nuclear power sector.

“The operationalization of Indo-U.S. nuclear deal for political and economic expediencies would have a detrimental impact on deterrence stability in South Asia,” Sartaj Aziz, an adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said in a statement on Tuesday night. “Pakistan reserves the right to safeguard its national security interests.”

Pakistan and China are among nations questioning whether neighboring India deserves to gain further international legitimacy for its nuclear program, putting them at odds with the Obama administration. The Nuclear Suppliers Group, a set of nations exporting atomic reactors and fuel, was created in response to India’s widely denounced nuclear tests in 1974.

Pakistan also objected to Obama’s support for India to get a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, Aziz said. Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The moves may be part of Pakistan’s strategy to build more nuclear reactors with China, said Anit Mukherjee, an assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

India-U.S. Ties

“I don’t think either country understands that by pressurizing India, they’re pushing them to the U.S.,” Mukherjee said on Jan. 28. “China should be afraid of this, as a strong bond between India and the U.S. could threaten their own regional freedom.”

In a joint statement on Jan. 25, Obama said India was ready for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. He agreed to work with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi toward “phased entry” that would include joining three more global non-proliferation assemblies: The Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.

An agreement with the U.S. in 2008 helped India gain a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which barred trade with any nation that hadn’t endorsed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which India has refrained from signing. Pakistan isn’t a member of the group and doesn’t have a waiver.

China noted Obama’s trip to New Delhi and said that India still needs to take more steps to meet the requirements of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Jan. 26.

Strategic Balance

“Pakistan values its relations with the United States and expects it to play a constructive role for strategic stability and balance in South Asia,” Aziz said.

Nuclear cooperation highlighted the meetings between Modi and Obama, who was India’s chief guest for its annual Republic Day parade. Among the breakthroughs was an end to a years-long deadlock on obstacles that blocked the U.S. from installing nuclear plants in India, which plans a $182 billion expansion of its nuclear industry.

U.S. technology suppliers have questioned the depth of the agreement between Obama and Modi. Westinghouse Electric Co., the Monroeville, Pennsylvania-based nuclear builder owned by Toshiba Corp., said it would study an offer by India to create an insurance pool to shield suppliers from liability in the event of an accident.

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