As a prelude to General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Washington next week, the conversation regarding a possible nuclear deal has picked up – as it did when Nawaz Sharif was at the US capital. As before the officials from both sides are understandably tight-lipped, but have dropped enough hints to ensure that a deal is definitely under discussion.

The most comprehensive statement of stance by both sides however is not presented by any official sources, but is being presented by the supposedly impartial ‘think tanks’, who are chiefly leading the debate. Western based think tanks – such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Stimson Centre – have already presented their reports, calling for Pakistan to change the nature of its weapon program and commit to non-proliferation. On Monday an Islamabad based think tank, the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) released its report, where it directly rejected the proposals of western institutes.

The report highlights the biggest hurdle to the deal; Pakistan wants parity with other non-NPT states that were given the same deal – namely India. Pakistan is being asked to stop and alter its weapon program, comply with Non proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) provisions and fundamentally change its civilian nuclear program, while India was inducted into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) without any of these conditions. These terms become more demanding when it is considered that India’s conventional weapon buildup – the reason for this quest for parity – is accelerating, and is being ignored by the US.

Western Institutes such as the Stimson Centre are correct to factor in Pakistan’s past record of proliferation when explaining why the conditions for both states need to be different – perhaps even justified in being cautious. Yet, the fact is unless India-Pakistan tensions are truly resolved no state will accept a deal that will compromise their military strength against the other; a situation which is compounded by a hawkish BJB government in India which has stepped up its nationalistic rhetoric. Any difference in the terms will be viewed as discriminatory.

India was offered a nuclear deal so that the NSG can access is lucrative markets and to build India as a counterweight to China. The Bush administration had to lobby hard to push this deal through congress, which principally objected to a non-NPT state being offered a compromise, but was won over on the security argument. The India deal is a product of strategic security concerns – albeit Washington’s – so it is quite baffling that it cannot understand Pakistan’s.