SHIREEN M MAZARI It seems the Americans just cannot get enough of abusing Pakistan on the nuclear issue - along with a number of other issues. However, the ongoing Nuclear Security Summit in Washington has provided the Pakistan-bashers, including those sheltering under the guise of academia, a golden opportunity to let loose against Pakistans nuclear weapons. The opening shots were fired by Bruce Reidel and Reuters and soon the other Eastern papers joined in and so did Harvard University through a report published by the Kennedy Schools Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, authored by Matthew Bunn. Given how in the past also such great centres of learning in the US have churned out nuclear propaganda - let us not forget the bomb in the basement scare decades earlier - one can quite safely put question marks on their research on Pakistans nuclear programme, especially since so much of it seems to be based on guesswork and conjecture rather than actual research on the ground. For instance, this whole build-up of a possible threat from Islamic extremists is absurd because Pakistans fissile material is highly secure - much more so than the fissile stockpiles of India and the US for example where there is a record of large amounts of missing and unaccounted for fissile material, information of which is in the public domain. So on what fact did Bunn assert that Pakistan faces the greatest threat to its nuclear stockpiles than any other stockpile in the world? When will the West realise that extremists do not need nukes because they are doing enough damage as it is with conventional fire power and are winning over more recruits with little effort, thanks to US policies in the Muslim World and their maltreatment of Muslim prisoners in places like Gitmo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib. Terrorists do not need nuclear weapons, especially since their aim is not to conquer territory but to win over people - which they cannot do if they have killed or radiated them. As for targeting the US homeland with nukes, how can that be done from Pakistan or even Afghanistan by non-state actors? Think for a moment: would they Fedex or DHL the bomb to the US after getting through their rather stringent security checks? Or would they send someone over carrying the highly volatile fissile material in a briefcase all the way to the US on a commercial airplane? If this sounds like trivialising the issue, it is simply to show how ludicrous the claim by the US media and officialdom is in this context. This is not to deny that some extremist/terrorist or even pathological killer, of the variety the US abounds in, may well be planning to target the US with nukes. However, these nukes will have to come from US sources on the mainland. So it is time the US beefed up its fissile stockpiles and upgraded its command and control mechanisms - so that we do not see the world threatened again by US nuclear bombers flying with live nuclear weapons and no authorisation. As for Bunns claims about our second nuclear reactor, intended for producing plutonium, going critical and a third one under construction, so what? These are legitimate programmes and far more miniscule than the Indian reactor programmes being built with US aid and assistance, so why is Bunns not focusing on these? Our civilian nuclear reactors are all subject to IAEA safeguards and as a de facto nuclear power like India, we have every right to add to our nuclear potential. After all, we are not signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty so we are under no international obligations to stop nuclear weapons production. As long as the US and Russia continue to maintain large arsenals - and let no one be fooled by the START game-playing which was effectively cost-rationalisation of nuclear arsenals - or even small ones which are part of doctrines that envisage the military use of nuclear weapons, other nuclear states can assert their rights to the same logic. But what should be of even greater concern to Pakistan is that our leaders continue to smile and melt every time any US praise comes their way, no matter how superficial. Why has prime minister not raised the issue of Indian proliferation and the damaging impact of the US 123 Agreement with India with President Obama? What makes us so reluctant to assert ourselves in Washington? Worse still, why did PM Gilani go the US route, in his dinner intervention, of playing on the nuclear terrorism theme when he knows full well that that is a pretext to target Pakistan and other Muslim states? It seemed highly inappropriate for him to play on the Radiological Dispersal Devices (RDDs) or dirty bombs scare that the West already exploits against Muslim states and peoples, especially Pakistan and Iran. Should Gilani not be more concerned about his credibility improving before his own people rather than lapping up Obamas flattery regarding the improvement in his stature before the US? As it is, for Obama to make this statement is insulting for not just the PM, but also the nation - like telling a child how they have finally matured How can this possibly be a victory for democracy. It is too bad that Gilani messed up on this since he did well to sideline Ambassador Haqqani from substantive matters through the presence of Masud Khan and informal consultations with Dr Lodhi. Let us hope Pakistan does not get trapped into signing on, on any commitment relating to external interventions in securing nuclear stockpiles. Despite Obamas hospitality, we are under no obligation to auction off our nuclear future. As in Afghanistan, Obama needs this Summit more than Pakistan - in fact, Pakistan did not need this at all - a first political summit focusing purely on nuke security in which there was a build-up to target Pakistans nukes. But for Obama this is his last stand to retain some credibility on the nuclear issue and his pre-presidential pronouncements on nuclear non-proliferation.