Pakistan and India are likely to agree on a Strategic Restraint Regime in their talks on nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) scheduled here on Dec 14-15, a Pakistani newspaper reported Sunday.
The Urdu-language daily Nawa-e-Waqt said India had showed little interest in such a CBM when Pakistan first made the proposal at the start of their Composite Dialogue process in February for fear that it would force a "strategic balance" with Islamabad.
However, now both the countries are moving in this direction under pressure from world powers, the paper said.
Quoting unnamed sources it said there is a "seemingly visible shift" in Indian stance on the issue and the official quarters in Islamabad expect progress on the issue when the crucial meeting on nuclear CBMs takes place.
"Both sides have agreed on the need for strategic stability and we hope that the nuclear talks would lead to some sort of agreement on the matter," the sources said.
One reason for the optimism is the increased interest of the US and the rest of international community in the bilateral restraint regime between the two nuclear-armed states, while the other is the successful diplomatic efforts by the two countries to normalise relations during the last eight months, supported by back-channel diplomacy.
Quoting a senior Pakistani official, it said the major purpose of this Pakistani proposal is to lower the threat of a nuclear war and to scale back the arms race between the two countries.
Under the proposal, the two sides would discuss the threshold for minimum nuclear deterrence, as both are of the view that there should not be an open-ended race for strategic or conventional arms. The proposed pact also aims to limit the risk of a nuclear conflict and a missile race.
The paper said the US has been in close contact with Islamabad and New Delhi since the commencement of bilateral dialogue but its interest is mainly focused on the nuclear talks.
It said the Kargil conflict in 1999 and military crisis between the two countries in 2001-02, when they mobilised their troops along their border, had led to a perception in the international community that South Asia is the "most likely" place for a nuclear conflict.
The paper noted that the two countries had already reached an agreement in 1998 not to attack each other's nuclear facilities and exchange annually a list of civilian nuclear facilities.
The areas in which there is likelihood of a broad agreement between Islamabad and New Delhi include a formal pact on advance notification of ballistic missile flight tests, bilateral consultations on security concepts and nuclear doctrines and the establishment of a communication mechanism to notify each other of unauthorized incidents that could be misinterpreted by the other side and contribute to nuclear tension, the paper said.
It noted the two sides, even without a formal agreement, are already observing some of these points, including notification of ballistic missile flight tests, and therefore it would be relatively easy for them to finalise a formal arrangement.