US negotiating civil nuclear deal with Pakistan?
Washington: Ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit here this month, the US is negotiating a pact on new limits on Pakistan's nuclear weapons and delivery systems, a deal that might lead to an agreement similar to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, according to a media report.
"Pakistan has been asked to consider what are described as 'brackets'," The Washington Post quoted a source familiar with the talks between the two countries as saying.
It said Pakistan would agree to restrict its nuclear programme to weapons and delivery systems that are appropriate to its actual defence needs against India's nuclear threat.
"Pakistan might agree not to deploy missiles capable of reaching beyond a certain range," the Post said.
In return for such an agreement, the US might support an eventual waiver for Pakistan by the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which it is a member, the paper said.
"At US urging, that group agreed to exempt India from rules that banned nuclear trade with countries that evaded the Non-Proliferation Treaty," The Post said.
It said that such an agreement might eventually "open a path toward a Pakistani version of the civil nuclear deal that was launched with India in 2005".
The White House neither confirmed or denied the report. It just said that the US is in regular contact with Pakistan on a range of issues ahead of Sharif's trip.
"We are in regular contact with the Government of Pakistan on a range of issues as we prepare for the visit on October 22 of Prime Minister Sharif. We'll decline comment on the specifics of these discussions," a senior Obama Administration official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
In recent past, the US led international community has expressed concern over the fast growth of Pakistan's nuclear weapons stockpile. The Post said the talks with Pakistan on this issue would be slow and take long.
"Pakistan prizes its nuclear programme, so negotiations would be slow and difficult, and it's not clear that Islamabad would be willing to accept the limitations that would be required. But the issue is being discussed quietly in the run-up to Prime Minister Sharif's visit to Washington," it said.
"Any progress would break a stalemate that has existed since the US detected Pakistan's nuclear programme in the mid-1980s, and especially after Pakistan exploded its first weapon in 1998," the daily reported.
The paper said a nuclear dialogue is especially important because it would begin to address what US officials for two decades have viewed as one of the world's most dangerous security problems.