At a round-table discussion in London, a Pakistani general involved with his country's nuclear program discussed the crisis with Indian civilian participants. "They said, 'We can live with losing Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta, but we will wipe out Pakistan,'" the general recalled. "I said, 'That's easier said than done. Losing Delhi, Calcutta, and Bombay, it would be very difficult for India to survive.'"(Indeed, the State Department took the threat so seriously that it evacuated its diplomats from the region—the first time it had ever done so.) Now the standoff was resolved, at least in Coll's telling, because Colin Powell and Richard Armitage did a deft job of mediating between the two sides. That's partly because they could be seen as somewhat impartial mediators—among other things, relations between the United States and Pakistan were warming in late 2001. But because the Bush administration has cozied up to India of late, Pakistan's generals now have "an absolute certainty that the U.S. is not an honest broker," one Defense Department official told Coll.
Such talk unnerved British and American officials, and in late May Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, called Armitage, asking him to visit Islamabad and New Delhi; he was hoping that a new round of diplomacy might at least slow down India's war planners. Armitage agreed, and he invited analysts from the State Department's intelligence and regional bureaus to his office. He asked for a show of hands: "How many think we're going to war?" Everybody's hand went up but his.
Colin Powell first raised the possibility of American assistance with Musharraf [on nuclear safeguards] in the autumn of 2001, but Musharraf rejected the idea; the Pakistani side "just said no," the former Bush Administration official recalled. The Pakistanis said they "had it all under control themselves."It's not an entirely unreasonable fear, really, and the United States' recent deal with India will very likely make Pakistan's generals even less likely to accept assistance anytime in the near future. And that makes nuclear proliferation more likely. Now perhaps it really is in our best interests to make a long-term strategic alliance with India—so that they can help us "contain China" or whatever nonsense is the rationale here—but it's easy to see the problems here.
Many of Pakistan's ruling generals fear that, given an opportunity, the United States might stand by as India attempted to preëmptively destroy Pakistan's nuclear-weapons facilities. In the view of Musharraf and his senior generals, Feroz Khan told me, "the United States is not hostile to Pakistan, but they do know that the U.S. was inimical to the Pakistani program from the beginning, so they would not assume any sympathy" if India attacked. Pakistan's military has gone to great lengths to keep the operational details of its nuclear-weapons systems secret, several well-placed American officials told me. To accept U.S. nuclear-security assistance, the generals would have to be convinced that the aid would not be used to collect intelligence or undermine Pakistan's control of its nuclear arsenal.