Pakistan denies discussing nuclear deal with US

| PM delays flight to take input from ISI DG

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad has denied the White House claim that the two countries are working towards an accord as a result of which Pakistan would limit its nuclear arsenal. “No deal is being discussed between the two countries. Nor has the US made any demand on Pakistan,” Foreign Office Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said in response to a question during a media briefing.

“History is a testimony to the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepts no demand from any state,” he said. The statement said the prime minister firmly believes in policies directed at preserving, protecting and promoting Pakistan national interests. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was to leave for the United States Sunday night, delayed his travel to receive briefing from the ISI DG who returned from there the same night. His key aides, Sartaj Aziz and Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, are already in Washington, holding meetings with the US officials on issues of bilateral interest and regional importance.

White House officials said Thursday they have already started talks that could ultimately govern the scale of Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal. Such a deal, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, is based on US concerns that Pakistan could be on the verge of deploying a small tactical nuclear weapon – very similar to those placed in Europe by the United States during the Cold War to deter Soviet Union.

“There has been a lot of public speculation about this,” Earnest said during the press briefing. “At this point, the United States has been engaged with Pakistan, as well as the rest of the international community, on issues related to nuclear safety and security.” Earnest however added that the current climate of discussions between Washington and Islamabad are not at a level where officials might expect a deal to be reached by the time of Prime Minister Sharif’s White House visit on October 22. Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah termed many of the comments appearing in the media to be an attempt to confuse the people and generate controversy, “where there is none, on issues of national importance.” He said Prime Minister Nawaz will be arriving in Washington on October 20 and his visit is aimed at further enhancing and strengthening relations between the two countries.

Government sources said the prime minister would leave on twin-engine jet in the (today) morning and arrive in Washington on Tuesday after a stopover for night in London. Before his departure for US, the prime minister in a statement said: Pak-US bilateral relations are satisfactorily advancing on an upward trajectory. We want to expand and augment the scope of US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Framework in a multifaceted manner.

Pakistan is a responsible sovereign nuclear state, he said, adding that its strategic assets are secured under a foolproof arrangement. Pakistan’s nuclear status is a deterrence against any external aggression, he added. The government sources said the PM delayed his flight for few hours so he could take a briefing from Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, who spent last few days in Washington and had hectic consultations with top US officials over issues relating to counter-terrorism and other strategic matters.

The premier would also be having input from his Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, who is in the US and would join the prime minister on his arrival in Washington. Aziz and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry had left here late Saturday evening for Washington and they were scheduled to hold talks with high ups of the US government immediately after their arrival. Informed sources informed that primarily bilateral relations, cooperation in fight against terror, Pakistan’s longstanding demand of membership in Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, Afghanistan and Indo-Pak relations would figure in Nawaz-Obama meeting.

Some analysts believed that the PM would take up the issue of Indian involvement in destabilisation of Pakistan as well as American military supplies to New Delhi, creating military imbalance in the region. PM would also raise issue of US supply of nuclear technology to India and not giving similar treatment to Pakistan which is facing extreme energy crisis. Besides having meeting with US President, the PM would meet Secretary of State John Kerry, key congressional leaders and address American think tanks. He will also meet members of the Pakistani-American community.

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