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Opinion

Opinion: Nothing will change

US President Barack Obama's meeting with Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif focused on a futile effort by Washington to halt the deployment of a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons by Islamabad, writes DW's Grahame Lucas.

In response to India's military buildup along its border to Pakistan, which New Delhi regards as defensive in nature, Islamabad is developing small nuclear weapons capable of striking at those Indian forces along its eastern border.

The buildup of nuclear stockpiles in Pakistan looks likely to continue unabated. Experts predict the country could have 250 nuclear warheads by 2025, making it the fifth-largest nuclear weapons state. The danger is acute that these small warheads could be stolen by terrorists if Pakistan sinks still further into chaos.

The only reason for this massive buildup is Pakistan's paranoia about its powerful eastern neighbor India.

But India has more to fear from Pakistan than vice versa. Pakistan continues to use state-sponsored terrorists in Kashmir, along its border with Afghanistan and for attacks on Indian cities, most recently in Mumbai in 2008.

Lucas Grahame Kommentarbild App

DW's Grahame Lucas

Pakistan has taken little or no action to bring the culprits of the Mumbai massacre to justice. The recent anti-terror drive in Pakistan follows a Taliban attack on an army school in Peshawar.

Its only purpose is to bring the Pakistani Taliban back under the full control of Pakistan's notorious intelligence service, ISI, so that the grouping can again be used in what the military considers to be Pakistan's national interests.

Neither will Pakistan give up its links to the Haqqani network, which the ISI uses to destabilize Kabul whenever it feels the need.

Obama - to his credit - tried to convince PM Sharif to agree to ceilings to his country's nuclear program, but to no avail. Sharif, toppled by an army coup in 1999 when he was previously prime minister, is in no position to take on Pakistan's powerful military establishment, which demands control over the country's foreign and security policies.

While Sharif would like better economic ties with India, it is not going to happen against the military's will. And Obama has only a weak hand to play. He desperately needs Pakistan's help to facilitate the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a political settlement in the country.

However, the US simply does not understand that Pakistan's goals on its western border are at odds with Washington's.

Islamabad wants control over whoever comes to power in Kabul even if it is the Taliban. According to its military logic, the Pakistani army would need to fall back into Afghanistan should it be driven back by Indian forces in the event of another war.

Thus, Washington's attempt to pander to Sharif by selling Pakistan eight F-16 fighter aircraft was a serious mistake. They will only be used against India and not against terrorists.

Pakistan made no concessions during the talks and is unlikely to listen to Washington's appeals for a relaxation of tensions with India in the future.

The time has come for western assistance to Pakistan to be ended and selective sanctions against members of its establishment to be imposed. Otherwise nothing will change and tensions in South Asia will worsen further.

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