India-Pakistan Feud Threatens Accord in This Post-Cold-War World, the United States May Be the Champion of Nuclear Diplomacy. It Is Adding Muscle to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Rigorous Export Controls on Sensitive Technology. Regionally, from South America to South Africa, US Negotiators Are Working to Curb the Development and Stem the Flow of Nuclear Weapons. the Monitor Looks at Two Regions Where the US Is Pressing for Progress

Article excerpt

THE Bush administration may have stirred up more controversy than compromise in its ongoing negotiations with Pakistan and India over nuclear non-proliferation.

Concerned that escalating tensions between the neighboring South Asian countries could erupt in a nuclear explosion, the US Department of State invited its top officials here to explore ways to avert the possibility. Washington is seeking to diffuse the threat with a five-power pact among the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan to stop the flow of nuclear weapons on the sub-continent.

A dangerous one-upmanship has replaced the usual denials from the two longtime foes about their respective nuclear programs. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shaheryar Khan revealed during his recent visit here that Pakistan has both the know-how and the materials to construct a nuclear bomb, a fact long-denied by Islamabad.

That public revelation reportedly drew a combative response from Indian government and opposition leaders. Foreign Minister Madhavsinh Solanki quickly asserted that "a bomb is part of our defense preparedness." The head of India's largest opposition party proclaimed: "India must waste no time to go nuclear."

Pakistani officials say India is trying to justify non-participation in a regional non-proliferation agreement.

"Regional non-proliferation efforts are breaking out all over the globe," Mr. Khan told the Monitor. "In the Pacific, in Latin America, on the Korean Peninsula," he says, agreements are possible. "But India says such a South Asian effort would deflect from its own world view of nuclear non-proliferation. It's just an excuse not to enter into an agreement."

Khan says India also dismisses an accord based on its historically poor relations with China, the major nuclear power in the region. "But they've mended their fences with China," insists Khan, who dismisses the Indian rejection as posturing.

Since Oct. 1, 1990, American aid to Pakistan has been severed under the Pressler amendment, which forbids assistance if it is found that Pakistan possesses necessary materials for a nuclear weapon. Pakistani officials say that the drop-off in aid has debilitated Pakistan's conventional deterrent to India, leaving Islamabad no other choice but to build up a nonconventional deterrent.

"It's a bit ironical that this country-specific {Pressler} law is geared toward Pakistan, when we are the one country ready to sign the non-proliferation treaty," protests Khan.

US Central Intelligence Agency Director Robert Gates voiced the Bush administration's concern over South Asian nuclear proliferation during his testimony before Congress on Jan. …