WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- No world power, including the United States, ever asked Pakistan to give up its nuclear option, not even after the current nuclear scandal, foreign policy experts told United Press International.
The experts, while reviewing the issues that might be discussed when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in Islamabad next week, said even during the visit there will be no pressure on Pakistan to roll back or cap its nuclear or missile programs.
They said the United States understands that Pakistan has its nuclear option because of India, which started the nuclear race in the Subcontinent. Until Pakistan's relations with India improve to an extent where it no longer feels threatened by its larger neighbor, Pakistan will retain its nuclear assets, the experts said.
"There never was any pressure on Pakistan to give up its nuclear program. It's the political opposition in Pakistan that thought so," said Michael Krepon, founding president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington. "I don't foresee Pakistan giving up the nuclear option. It's not going to happen. What Pakistan must do is to control its nuclear materials, its equipment. No country has a worse record on this than Pakistan."
He was referring to the discovery last month that Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan was running a network of nuclear proliferators who sold nuclear secrets and technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
"If a country acquires the nuclear option, it has an obligation to be able to be responsible for that capability. Pakistan has not demonstrated that, and that's what world capitals are saying to Pakistan," said Krepon.
Robert Oakley, a former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism who also has served as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, said world powers, including the United States were "very pleased with what Pakistan is doing to control the damage" done by the network of nuclear proliferators. The question of Pakistan giving up its nuclear program was never raised, he added.
Pramit Mitra, a scholar with the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, said the United States was not asking Pakistan to give up the nuclear option because "they know that Pakistan will never do it. If you can work with Pakistan, why derail the cart?" he asked.
William Milam, another former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, says that despite the proliferation, the United States is not going to re-impose nuclear related sanctions on Pakistan that were removed after Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism in 2001.
"A whole range of sanctions, we could re-apply, we are not about to do that," said Milam. "And it is not just because we want their support in the war against terrorism. Our relationship with Pakistan is much wider. We want India-Pakistan talks to move forward. Pakistan is a big country and an important Muslim country. We should have had a steadier relationship ... and I think this administration is trying to do that," Milam said.
"In Pakistan, Powell is most likely to focus on the fallout of the nuclear network," said Hussain Huqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, Washington. "He may personally ask President Musharraf to share in its entirety the intelligence that has been gained from the debriefing of Khan."
Mitra believes that "in closed door talks with Gen. Musharraf, Powell may express a lot of concern about Khan and how worried the U.S. administration is." He said that the two sides may also discuss a possible deal for getting Pakistan's cooperation in the hunt for Osama bin Laden in return for U.S. help to Islamabad in overcoming the nuclear scandal.
Oakley believes that besides the nuclear issue, Powell will also focus on cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism. "The U.S. administration wants to see Afghanistan developing into stability rather than terrorism," he said.
Other issues likely to be discussed include Kashmir, relations between India and Pakistan, and U.S. cooperation in countering terrorism inside Pakistan, said Oakley. "They all interact. It's not just one issue or another."
Mitra disagreed with Powell, who says that the Bush administration has endorsed the pardon for Khan in exchange for the information he could provide about his network. "What possibly can they do now? Whatever they could give to Iran, Libya and North Korea, they have. They are not going to do it again."