Pakistan rules out change in nuke policy

Sartaj Aziz concedes that the nuclear issue was one of the areas of differences between the U.S. and Pakistan.

March 02, 2016 12:22 pm | Updated September 06, 2016 09:09 am IST - Washington

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Pakistan on Wednesday ruled out any change in its “dynamic” policy of increasing its nuclear weapons, as it dismissed the U.S.’ request in this regard, citing India’s rapid military modernisation.

A day after Secretary of State John Kerry asked Pakistan to review its policy of increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile — which currently is among the fastest growing in the world — Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs advisor to the Prime Minister, conceded that the nuclear issue was one of the areas of differences between the U.S. and Pakistan.

“In terms of the safety and security of nuclear weapons command and control system, we have made outstanding progress. Globally, all the international agencies and the U.S. have acknowledged that Pakistan has developed a very good system for the safety for export control, and command and control system,” Mr. Aziz said during an interaction at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“But the [American] concern remains. Our nuclear capacity is a deterrent against Indian capacity. Deterrent is not a static concept. It is a dynamic concept. If your adversary goes on expanding its capacity, then you have to respond. It is not something that you can take something for granted,” he said.

“We keep insisting in our relationship that India is the independent variable in this. We are the dependent variable. So if India were to restrain and U.S. would not increase its strategic and conventional imbalance between the two countries, then our task would become easier.” Pakistan can’t even afford this strategic and conventional imbalance with India, he said.

Talks resumption

The India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks could be rescheduled soon after a Pakistan probe team visited Pathankot “in the next few days” to investigate the January 2 airbase attack, Mr. Aziz said.

The Pathankot attack left seven security personnel dead. All six terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan, were also killed in the attack, which derailed the India-Pakistan “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue” that started following Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s meeting in Paris.

After a meeting with Mr. Kerry on Monday, Mr. Aziz on Tuesday said it was unfortunate that the Pathankot attack disrupted the resumption of secretary-level talks.

Since the attack, Pakistan had taken a number of “important steps” to facilitate the resumption of the talks, Dawn online quoted Mr. Aziz as saying.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called Narendra Modi immediately after the attack and assured him of Pakistan’s support in the investigation. The two national security advisers are maintaining frequent contacts,” he said.

“A case has been registered and the special investigation team (SIT) is likely to visit India in the next few days. We, therefore, hope that the Foreign Secretary-level talks will be scheduled very soon,” Mr. Aziz said during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue he co-chaired with Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Aziz said the government’s decision to reach out to India after the Pathankot attack was an important part of a strategy to improve ties with all neighbouring countries.

“We believe that the resolution of all outstanding issues —— including the Kashmir dispute —— is possible through resumption of full-scale and uninterrupted dialogue with India,” he said.

He added that Pakistan also “proposed a mechanism to address our respective concerns on terrorism”.

Soon after the Pathankot attack, Pakistan set up a six-member probe team to follow up on the leads that India had provided.

On Saturday, a court in Punjab province of Pakistan granted remand of six suspects, arrested for their alleged involvement in the attack, in police custody for further investigation.

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