Stephen Harper in Pakistan+Defending the Arsenal
Excellent short little piece recommending a Pakistan stopover for Stephen Harper in his visit to the subcontinent. Canada does not want to repeat US mistakes and risk a trust deficit with Pakistan – with over 120,000 Canadians of Pakistani origin, hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis living in Canada as permanent residents, and over 10,000 Pakistanis landing each year, Canada would do well to cultivate good relations with the Pakistani government.
This advice dovetails nicely with Seymour Hersh’s latest article on Pakistan, a piece exploring the rumors and conspiracy theories about American interest in Pakistan’s nuclear resume. ‘Defending the Arsenal’ has been widely criticized and has thus generated a great deal of controversy, which is largely unnecessary. The article is not, as the backlash in Pakistan has suggested, ‘anti-Pakistani’ or ‘sensationalist’ as far as its content goes – at least not excessively so. It needs to be a little more balanced, yes, but it does do a good job of exploring the trust deficit. The New Yorker made a bad move by headlining the article as ‘Are nuclear weapons safe in Pakistan?’ – a question that Seymour Hersh himself does not ask.
Indeed, as James Gundun points out,
“Hersh never said anything too controversial, normal rumors in Pakistan really, and he interviewed figures from both sides, even admitting that America’s strategy made Pakistan “hate our guts.” Hersh’s real message is the continuing fragility of US-Pakistani and Pakistani-Indian relations,. An ugly truth, hence the backlash.”
Hersh has since explained that the point of US intervention in Pakistani nukes is a circular way of making sure that the Pak Army focuses on Afghanistan and not India – the theory is that Pakistan will pull away from the border (and refocus on the Taliban) once the Indian nukes are neutralized, but the Indians will only lower their guard once there is no risk of a Pakistani strike. Need I point out how ludicrous that is? Cyril Almeida (with interesting analysis and views, as always) had an interesting analogy:
“That’s not just asking the fox to guard the hen house; it’s taking a hen, stuffing it in the mouth of the fox, clamping its jaws shut and then asking the fox not to chew.”
Anyway. I’ve digressed enough. Hersh’s analysis is worthwhile for mainly this:
Pakistan’s fears about the United States coöperating with India are not irrational. Last year, Congress approved a controversial agreement that enabled India to purchase nuclear fuel and technology from the United States without joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty, making India the only non-signatory to the N.P.T. permitted to do so. Concern about the Pakistani arsenal has since led to greater coöperation between the United States and India in missile defense; the training of the Indian Air Force to use bunker-busting bombs; and “the collection of intelligence on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal,” according to the consultant to the intelligence community. (The Pentagon declined to comment.)
Canada does not want Pakistan to have similar fears about its relationship with India. A 6-hour stopover in Islamabad would be reassuring and a shrewd diplomatic move – let’s hope Stephen Harper makes it.