Confronted with the hard choice of accepting or rejecting the United States bargain on nuclear mainstreaming, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to the White House will be marked by tense diplomacy.
“The prime minister will be paying an official visit to the United States on 20-23 October,” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said at the weekly media briefing.
He pointed out that a comprehensive agenda would be discussed during the visit, including bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, education, defence, counter-terrorism, health and climate change. Pakistani officials wouldn’t say anything about the nuclear deal being offered by the Obama administration, which in an undiplomatic description entails curbs on its nuclear programme in return for being allowed entry into nuclear cartels like ‘Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)’ that regulate the global nuclear trade and a nod to civil nuclear cooperation.
US officials are relatively more forthcoming on this as they officially admit that topics to be discussed at the White House meeting include non-proliferation. It will be after a very long time that the nuclear issue will take the centre stage in a meeting at this level. The issue came into limelight following recent leaks in US media about the deal being discussed by the two countries. But the discussion has been taking place for some time now. At the last round of the US-Pakistan Security, Strategic Stability and Non-proliferation Working Group in June in Washington, the two sides had agreed on “the desirability of continued outreach to integrate Pakistan into the international non-proliferation regime”.