Cablegate: Pakistani Views On Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty

DE RUEHIL #2840/01 3281259
P 241259Z NOV 09



EO 12958 DECL: 10/06/2019

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson for reasons 1.4 (b) (d)

1. (C) Summary: Pakistani officials do not appear to have coalesced on a strategy or position for the mid-January resumption of Conference on Disarmament (CD) discussions on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) interlocutors continue to stress the need for consensus language to bring Pakistan on board a CD work program that includes FMCT negotiations, while Strategic Plans Division (SPD) officials urge a cautious approach that leaves plenty of time for deliberations. In the absence of a formal decision, continued delay along procedural lines is the most likely default approach. Overt U.S. pressure may solidify this tactic, according to a non-governmental contact who follows disarmament issues. The GOP strongly desires the resumption of U.S.-Pakistan talks on nonproliferation, security, and strategic stability before the next CD session in order to discuss perspectives on the FMCT and come to an “understanding” on each side’s positions. In order to take advantage of internal GOP deliberations, Post recommends high-level interventions with Pakistan’s military leadership to help build support for proceeding with FMCT negotiations. End summary.

2. (C) Over the last two weeks, PolOff canvassed GOP officials in the Disarmament Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Director General Dr. Irfan Yusuf Shami and Director Kamran Akhtar), the Arms Control and Disarmament Directorate at the Strategic Plans Division (Director Khalid Banuri and Deputy Director Adil Sultan), as well as one non-governmental contact (Maria Sultan of the South Asia Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI)) who follows nonproliferation issues, for views on Pakistan’s likely approach to Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty discussions at the Conference on Disarmament when the 2010 session convenes in January. The discussions with Pakistani interlocutors suggest that Pakistan’s FMCT position remains somewhat malleable and that GOP officials have not yet coalesced on a specific position for the next CD session. They also underscored the importance of bilateral discussions, particularly with high-level Pakistan military officials, if the USG is to secure Pakistani support for beginning CD negotiations.

Strategic Considerations

3. (C) According to Pakistani counterparts, Pakistan’s FMCT position is shaped by four strategic considerations, which point to a degrading of the deterrent value of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and thus make an FMCT difficult for Pakistan. First, Pakistani officials perceive the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation initiative as having unshackled India’s nuclear weapons program. Prior to the initiative, they said, India faced a significant uranium supply constraint that forced it to choose literally between nuclear weapons or nuclear power. Now, however, India is able to secure foreign-supplied uranium for its civil nuclear power reactors, leaving it free to devote a greater share of its domestically-sourced uranium to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. This perceived growth in nuclear weapons production capability blunts any numerical advantage in nuclear weapons Pakistan may have.

4. (C) Second, the increase in high-technology defense and space trade between India and the United States, Russia, and others has improved the quality of India’s nuclear systems, according to Pakistani thinking. While Pakistan continues to face significant trade barriers and is subject to export denial regimes, Pakistani officials believe India is no longer held back by these constraints and is using market access to improve its nuclear delivery vehicles.

5. (C) Third, India’s growing conventional military superiority, coupled with its Cold Start military doctrine of fast mobilization and rapid strike capability, poses a new level of threat, according to Pakistani counterparts. Indian plans and capabilities have forced Pakistan to rely more on nuclear weapons and less on conventional military capability to balance Indian force. Maria Sultan of SASSI suggested that Pakistani military planners now focus on the possibility of a two-front war and believe that Pakistan needs to transform its arsenal to smaller, tactical weapons that could be used on the battlefield against Indian conventional capabilities. The result of this trend is the need for greater stocks of fissile material to feed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons requirement.

6. (C) Finally, Pakistani counterparts point to India’s interest and investment in missile defense, even if it will take many years to field a capable system. They believe this indicates that India is not interested in a balance of power, but intends to degrade the value of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent.

7. (C) Taken together, these strategic considerations point Pakistan in the direction of a larger nuclear force that requires a greater amount of fissile material, Pakistani officials argue. By this logic, agreeing to a production cutoff now does not meet Pakistan’s interests. It is unclear whether GOP officials believe Pakistan is ahead of India in terms of nuclear capability, but they point to the combination of India’s capabilities and intentions, as well as its stockpile of fissile material (even if spent nuclear reactor fuel is not as useful in nuclear weapons), to suggest that there is little advantage for Pakistan in trying to lock India into an FMCT now, since both countries’ arsenals appear set to grow. Maria Sultan suggested that this is not the consensus view, however, and that at least some part of the Pakistani military establishment believes it better to agree to an FMCT now since India has a much greater long-term fissile material growth potential than Pakistan. In either case, the argument that the FMCT is a global disarmament imperative seems to have no currency in Islamabad; Pakistan’s position, as described by Pakistani counterparts, is shaped exclusively by its own regional concerns.

FMCT Policy Circle

8. (C) While GOP officials would not comment directly on internal FMCT policy deliberations over the summer, Maria Sultan argued that Pakistan’s surprising reversal at the CD can be chalked up to two factors: a CD Ambassador too eager to join consensus and a lethargic policy process driven more by personalities than institutions. By her account, Pakistan’s initial support of the CD work program in the spring of 2009 was a decision made by Ambassador Zamir Akram without the benefit of a full policy review in Islamabad. Akram, she suggested, is part of the old guard of MFA ideologues and a long-time supporter of the Shannon mandate, which identified parameters for international consensus on an FMCT. However, Pakistan’s position to support FMCT negotiations based on the Shannon mandate was outdated, she said. The advent of the U.S.-India civil nuclear initiative, in particular, had changed the terms for Islamabad, but its CD strategy had never been updated. Military officials in Islamabad intervened, she stated, and it was left to MFA to extricate Pakistan from a dilemma of its own creation, which is why Pakistan sought to tie up the CD on procedural grounds.

9. (C) According to Sultan, there are several camps within the GOP policy circle on FMCT. MFA officials, she said, tend toward continuing to support negotiation of an FMCT. In addition to Foreign Secretary Bashir and Irfan Shami, other officials, such as MFA spokesman Abdul Basit and Ambassador to Beijing Masood Khan, are Akram protgs and will continue to be consulted on negotiating strategy even though they are not directly tied to the Disarmament Division, she suggested. While important, MFA officials probably are not the most influential voices on FMCT, she argued; the views of high-level military officials, in particular Gen. Kayani and SPD Director General Khalid Kidwai, carry more weight within this circle. Kayani, she indicated, is aware of the issue but is not prepared to make a decision. Kidwai, on the other hand, favors delaying negotiations as long as possible, presumably to leave time and space for the investments made in expanding Pakistan’s fissile material production capacity to bear fruit. SPD Arms Control Director Khalid Banuri indicated this preference for delay, telling PolOff that the current momentum on FMCT should not be used to rush the process and “there needs to be plenty of time for deliberations.”

10. (C) Sultan argued, however, that Kidwai does not monopolize the debate on this issue and that other critical inputs come from the Strategic Forces Command, the Director General for Military Operations (DGMO), the Minister of Defense, and some National Defense University experts. In particular, she stated, “the DGMO (Maj. Gen. Javed Iqbal) takes a view on the FMCT 180 degrees apart from Kidwai’s,” believing that it is better to bind India to current fissile material levels than wait for the full effect of the U.S.-India nuclear initiative, which will allow India to produce even greater amounts of plutonium.

11. (C) When asked how she rated overall government support for these two positions, Sultan assessed 70% favor further delay while 30% support negotiation. However, she cautioned, overt U.S. pressure on Pakistan will firmly tip the balance toward delay. To bring Pakistan on board, she said the U.S. needs to focus on addressing Pakistan’s strategic concerns and the slow degradation of deterrence. In particular, she argued for opening the high-technology defense market for Pakistan on early warning capabilities, such as the AWACS platform.

Next Steps and Post’s Recommendations

12. (C) Looking ahead to January, MFA Disarmament Director General Irfan Shami expressed a strong desire to resume bilateral talks on nonproliferation, security, and strategic stability before the CD session in order to discuss perspectives on the FMCT and come to an “understanding” on each other’s positions. He would not elaborate on what that “understanding” might constitute, but stated Pakistan needs time to explain its position. While it is unlikely such discussions will turn Pakistan’s policy around, they should have the effect of forcing more internal discussions on the issue, which provides some opportunity for USG influence.

13. (C) It seems clear that, beyond MFA, Pakistan’s military leadership is a crucial audience. While direct U.S. pressure is unlikely to convince them to support FMCT negotiations, and may even hurt efforts to move forward, mil-mil discussions on Pakistan’s strategic concerns, particularly with COAS General Kayani and DGMO Major General Javed Iqbal, could help build the military’s confidence that Pakistan’s interests will be taken into account. As part of these interventions, it may help to provide Pakistani military leaders with an analytical case for why an FMCT makes more sense for Pakistan now than in the future in terms of the strength of the its deterrence vis-a-vis India. PATTERSON

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