The Trump administration has added seven Pakistani companies to the list of foreign entities that presumably pose a significant risk to national security and policy interests of the United States by allegedly engaging in nuclear trade. The move could undermine Pakistan’s ambitions of joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an elite club of countries that can trade fissile material and nuclear technologies. It forms a series of decisions aimed at putting squeeze on Pakistan.
The list prepared by the US Bureau of Industry and Security declares that all Pakistan’s seven companies are “reasonably believed to be involved or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities contrary to the national security or policy interests of the United States. Among the seven companies three are listed for their involvement in the proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. Two are accused of procuring supplies for nuclear related entities already on the list and two are blamed for acting as fronts for the listed entities. Pakistan in a sharp reaction to the sanction on its seven companies, has cautioned the US against aspersions on its nuclear non-proliferation credentials. Foreign office spokes person, Dr. Muhammad Faisal said Pakistan believes that there should be no undue restrictions on access to dual-use items and technologies for peaceful and legitimate purpose.
The track record of Pakistan’s nuclear safeguards has been appreciated by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It has always been transparent and willing to engage with suppliers of dual use items, including from the United States to extend guarantees regarding non-diversion through end-user as well. It has arranged for such post-ship verifications by certain other international suppliers of dual- use items to their complete satisfaction.
Addition of seven companies to the list of foreign entities that are subject to stringent export control measure is a reminiscent of the negative diplomatic and media campaign that was started against Pakistan’s nuclear program in the decade of 1980s. But at that time under the intelligent directions of the ruling leadership, our career diplomats in the United states, United Nations and capitals of important European countries did an effective firefighting and trouble shooting. They had the back up support of star performer diplomat, the then Secretary General Foreign Office, Agha Shahi. The media officers that were posted in Pakistani Embassies abroad also contributed in a big way to counter the malicious propaganda against the country’s nuclear program. But this times the scenario is not that much enviable. The ruling leadership has almost resigned itself from the task of proactive diplomacy and is always preoccupied with the duty of defending and supporting their disqualified leader, the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They are well aware that Pakistan has lost its diplomatic space and the remaining good well in Washington. But deliberately designated Ali Jehangir Siddique as ambassador to the United States who is totally alien to the art of diplomacy, even though being educated at a top notch American university. The gentleman is also under the investigation of NAB which has decided to request the government to place his name on the no-fly list. The incumbent ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry has also not performed well, though he is a Career diplomat. He is retiring and is almost a lame duck diplomat.
President trump has appointed a super-hawk conservative Jhon Bolton as his National Security Advisor. He was the architect of the so called bogey of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and pushed the United States to 2003 invasion of Iraq which the then UN Secretary General Kofi Anan declared as illegal. The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also later expressed repentance over the invasion of Iraq under the fabricated theory of weapons of mass destruction. Jhon Bolton ascendancy to the slot of National Security Advisor should be seriously taken by Pakistan’s political leadership. It should focus on mending the relations with Washington by appointing a trouble shooter ambassador who can reclaim the lost diplomatic space and prepare a ground for improvement of relations between the two allied countries in war against global terrorism.