RENOWNED scholar on South Asian affairs Stephen Cohen, while appearing before a US Congressional committee, proposed a "criteria-based" nuclear deal for Pakistan. It is about time. And it is hoped that American legislators warm to the concept. The idea, though it would be in accordance with the wishes of those Pakistanis who wanted a nuclear deal similar to the Indo-US deal, works on a different principle. Those offended by a nuclear deal between our eastern neighbour and the United States had a couple of contentions. If we have been a valued ally of the US, why would the latter choose, in the midst of a global energy crisis, to strike a nuclear deal with a country with whom we have had a far from ideal relationship? In the new global set-up, with a set of rising economic powers and the important geopolitical situation of certain nations, the US establishment feels it is time for them to warm up to India. But surely, our consistent support should count for something. Then there is the other argument as well. If rising influences mean something, then Pakistan's economy, though its condition might be a bit precarious at the moment, has a lot of potential. And as far as geopolitical influence is concerned, our beleaguered republic actually has more than it would probably want, like an albatross across our neck. So why not a nuclear deal with us? The arguments that Cohen and his associates present, however, are not what they call "country specific" deals. Focus on criteria instead. If a nation meets those criteria, then the US should go ahead with it. But does Pakistan meet those parameters? ask the US legislators. Cohen seems to think so. "I do not place much credence in scenarios that project a takeover of the Pakistani government or army leadership by extremists," he says. Further, he argues, the civilian nuclear power deal could actually help in curtailing any prospect of proliferation. Since we know that, as a state, we have no interest in proliferation, this all sounds like a good idea.