3 minute readZardari after the Af-Pak summit

The recent chatter about Pakistan, especially, with the Af-Pak summit in Washington last week, has thrown up a wide range of ideas and theories which have untested credibility. Indeed, many of them amount to little more than speculation as to what President Zardari might have given away in the US capital. StratPost attempts to examine some of the stories that surfaced.

One report has suggested President Zardari to have agreed to an Af-Pak Transit Agreement under US pressure. The agreement would reportedly enable India to gain transit rights to Afghanistan via Pakistan, something the Pakistan government has consistently denied till now. “Their army wouldn’t like it,” commented one member of India’s security establishment. “Even if we do get the transit rights, which admittedly would be nice and may even become a Confidence Building Measure (CBM), securing the logistics of it all would be a nightmare, considering the anticipated disruptive action against any such transit,” he added.

Transit rights to Afghanistan have been denied to India by Pakistan, which is why India constructed the Zaranj-Delaram highway, which connects the Iranian-Afghan border with the Afghan ring highway, with the idea being to enable India to send cargo to Afghanistan via Iranian ports and the highway.

Another report speculates about the budget cuts in the Pakistani nuclear program, which is being seen by some to be the prelude to a roll back of their nuclear program, notwithstanding this report to the contrary.

According to the report:

The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and all other strategic institutions including the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) have been subjected to massive budgetary cut owing to which their development projects including certain core classified projects have either been slowed down or halted altogether.

In case of PAEC alone, its development budget saw a cut of almost 35 per cent while for the non-classified open development projects merely 15% of the total budget was released till end March 2009.

This severe budgetary cut and the introduction of new financial system reportedly introduced on the IMF’s advice have upset many nuclear scientists, who think it is tantamount to unannounced rollback.

Though speculative, these reports are being seen by the Indian security establishment as evidence of US pressure on President Zardari. “It is difficult to imagine him taking these steps and going against powerful sections of strategic institutions on his own. If these reports are based on fact, he would certainly be doing these things under US pressure. At the very least, he’s in trouble if his people have these suspicions of him,” said another senior Indian officer, adding, “But how long will he survive if he’s actually going against the thinking of the army? If this goes on things are going to become difficult for him.”

The reportedly sparse official outcome of the Af-Pak summit has lead many in Pakistan to suspect hidden agendas and secret agreements, leading one observer in Indian uniform to conclude, “They’re probably wondering what all he’s gone and signed away.”

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