Beyond Sanctions: Revisiting the Pak-US Narrative on Pakistan’s 26th Nuclear Anniversary
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Beyond Sanctions: Revisiting the Pak-US Narrative on Pakistan’s 26th Nuclear Anniversary


APLN member Rabia Akhtar writes on the contradictions in U.S. nonproliferation policy regarding Pakistan, highlighting the need to reset the narratives on the country’s nuclear program and Pakistan-U.S. relations.

Rethinking the Narrative

While the public discourse often revolves around Pakistan’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities as a security dilemma, it is equally important to acknowledge how U.S. policies, through strategic waivers and amendments, have facilitated this pathway, albeit indirectly. This historical perspective suggests a more collaborative and less accusatory approach in future engagements between the two nations.

The intricate dance between sanctions and strategic waivers in U.S.-Pakistan relations, especially regarding nuclear development, underscores a broader theme of pragmatic flexibility over consistent policy application. This pattern is not merely a footnote in the bilateral interactions but a significant driver that has shaped the nuclear landscape of South Asia. The U.S. policy, ostensibly aimed at nonproliferation, has often been adapted to suit immediate strategic interests, reflecting a realpolitik approach in its foreign policy execution.

The narrative that has often painted Pakistan solely as a proliferator needs substantial revision. This is where the narrative needs revision. It should account for how U.S. policies—through various amendments and waivers—have indirectly facilitated Pakistan’s nuclear pathway. These actions were not taken in a vacuum but were deeply influenced by the broader geopolitical dynamics of their times, such as the Cold War pressures and the post-9/11 security concerns.

As we move forward, it is crucial for the discourse on U.S.-Pakistan relations to evolve into a more balanced critique that recognizes the dual roles both nations have played in the nuclear narrative. This nuanced understanding not only provides a clearer picture of past interactions but also offers a framework for future diplomatic engagements. There is a pressing need for a narrative that fosters cooperation, focuses on mutual interests like nuclear safety and regional stability, and encourages a dialogue that transcends the traditional paradigms of sanctions and security threats.

Such a shift could pave the way for more robust, transparent, and constructive interactions between the U.S. and Pakistan, potentially leading to better outcomes in nuclear nonproliferation and regional peace efforts. It is imperative for both policymakers and scholars to champion this revised narrative, ensuring that future engagements are informed by the lessons of the past while aiming for a more stable and secure South Asian region.

The full article can be accessed here.

Image: iStock/Oleksii Liskonih

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