Pakistan Defends its Nuclear Record After US Slams Seven Companies with Sanctions
Pakistan has come to its own defense about its nuclear safety record in the aftermath of new United States sanctions on seven Pakistani companies with alleged ties to nuclear trade.
The United States Bureau of Industry and Security, which functions under the Commerce department, first imposed the sanctions on March 22nd by placing the companies on its “Entity List.” Although the Department of Commerce’s Entity List does not forbid companies on the list from engaging in business affairs, it requires that any US and foreign companies first obtain a license before engaging in operations with companies on the list.
The Pakistani foreign office denied that the sanctions were politically significant, claiming instead that many companies around the world have been placed on the list.
“Pakistan’s efforts in the area of export controls and non-proliferation as well as nuclear safety and security are well known. Pakistan and US have a history of cooperation in these areas,” the foreign office said in a statement released on Monday.
In order to be placed on the Entity List, the companies had been “determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security of foreign policy interests of the United States,” according to the bureau’s website.
The bureau placed a total of 23 companies on the list - 15 from Sudan, 7 from Pakistan, and 1 from Singapore - on the 22nd.
A spokesperson from the US Department of States said that the Entity List is “not country-specific.” Rather, “entities are looked at on a case-by-case basis, irrespective of national affiliation, and are added based on whether they operate counter to US national security interests.”
However, given the recent tensions between officials in Islamabad and the Trump administration in D.C., many wonder whether or not the US sanctions represent a political power play.
The sanctions surely hurt Pakistan’s chances at earning a spot in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 48-nation club dedicated to curbing nuclear arms proliferation. Both Pakistan and India are currently applying for membership to the NSG, and many wonder if the US sanctions were set in place to purposefully cast doubt about Pakistan’s membership in the NSG.
Furthermore, the sanctions must be considered within the context of the US-led allegation that Pakistan is providing support to Islamist militants in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied such accusations.
Trump has relentlessly advocated for increasing pressure on Pakistan to aid the US and Afghan-led war effort in Afghanistan, saying that the nation’s refusal to do so represents an interest in helping the other side. In early January, Trump decided to suspend $900 million in security aid that would have been provided to Pakistan had it taken more of a role in targeting Taliban and Haqqani militant networks.
Now, targeting companies with sanctions represents yet another bold US gesture aimed at forcing Pakistani cooperation. Pakistan has also antagonized major players within South Asian politics, moving away from peaceful relationships with two US allies, India and Afghanistan.
Thus, as pressure from all sides begins to push Pakistan, the question now is whether or not Pakistan will cave to the Trump administration's demands or continue to fight the growing opposition.