Pakistan ready to phase out N-arms if India does the same: Haqqani

The News, Lahore, Sunday, May 24, 2009

Asks US media not to confuse terror fight with other issues

WASHINGTON: Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani on Saturday said Pakistan was maintaining a minimum nuclear deterrent capability and its ongoing anti-terrorism effort should not be confused with the nuclear programme.

“Everybody in the United States government who knows anything about nuclear weapons knows that Pakistan has a very secure nuclear programme. It’s a very limited nuclear programme to maintain deterrence vis-a-vis our (eastern) neighbor (India),” Haqqani told CNN. “Pakistan is willing to engage with our neighbour for a comprehensive settlement in which the nuclear weapons can be phased out by both countries,” he added.

He said top Obama administration officials have acknowledged Pakistan’s strict nuclear safeguards and are assured that Islamabad would not divert the US aid to its nuclear expansion of its nuclear programme. “I think that assurance has already been given by no less a person than Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) of the United States government — Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are safe and Pakistan is not going to expand nuclear weapons capability to a point when it becomes a threat to any country in the world, including our neighbours.”

The envoy ruled out sharing information on secret location of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. “I don’t think any country knows or tells the location of all its nuclear weapons to any country in the world. The Soviet Union never did it with the United States until an — after comprehensive negotiations between the US and Soviet Union started.

So whenever that starts between Pakistan and its eastern neighbor, we will move in that direction.” He asked the American media to desist from shifting the attention away from fight against terrorists, who, he stressed, pose a threat to the United States. “But I don’t think Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are a threat to the United States. I think the threat to the United States right now comes from terrorists that might be in Afghanistan or in parts of Pakistan. And Pakistan is doing a great job fighting those terrorists right now.”

“I think we don’t need to go into whether it’s expanding its nuclear arsenal or not. We are maintaining our minimum deterrence vis-a-vis our neighbour — I think that a lot of times when countries like Pakistan are discussed, the media — which includes you, my friend — has a tendency to create some kind of shorthand about those places. So talking about nuclear weapons is one of those things.”

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