PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Pakistan's foreign secretary will visit Washington early next month to discuss nuclear non-proliferation with United States officials.

The US State Department fears "unsafeguarded nuclear programs in both Pakistan and India," and recently invited foreign secretaries from both countries to discuss South Asia regional non-proliferation. Defending their nuclear program, Pakistanis cite the threat from neighboring India, a longtime foe.

But Sen. Larry Pressler (R) of South Dakota warns of a nuclear-armed Islamic federation - including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and the five former Soviet Muslim republics - by the end of the decade. Pakistani Ambassador Abida Hussain turns the table: "For so long, that whole area has been blocked from world view. We, your longtime friends, can help provide a window into this region."

Once essential to US strategic interests in South Asia, Pakistanis are bitter about what they see as the political expediency of US foreign policy. Only a few years ago, when Soviet influence in Afghanistan threatened to spill over into other South Asian countries, Pakistan was an all-important US ally. Islamabad's help as a conduit for US military assistance to the Afghan rebels proved an important counter to Soviet aggression. Without Pakistan, say State Department officials, the Soviet military would not have retreated. In return, Pakistan received over $6 billion in US economic and military assistance.

The reduced Soviet threat seems to have sharpened Washington's focus on Pakistan's nuclear development. One US official concedes that during the Afghan war, the US looked the other way on Pakistan's nuclear program.

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