SOUTH ASIA: THE...

SOUTH ASIA: THE NEXT MIDDLE EAST? Given the turmoil in the Middle East, the mounting nuclear-tinged tensions in South Asia have been largely ignored in the United States, even after India and Pakistan each withdrew their diplomats from the other country last week, just two days after the House approved a nuclear assistance package for India. The technology transfer is being sold as a peaceful-use energy deal.

Late last month, Congress learned from press reports of the construction in Pakistan of a new heavy-water reactor, which the Institute for Science and International Security estimates (PDF) could produce enough plutonium for between 40 and 50 warheads.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration contends that the Pakistani project at Khushab is "10 times less capable" than the estimates provided in the ISIS report. So, I guess the administration decided it wasn't a big enough deal to worry Congress's pretty little head over.

Revelations of the Pakistani reactor apparently weren't enough to stall congressional approval for a deal to sell to Pakistan up to 36 F-16 fighter planes, which are capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Oh, and did I mention that al-Qaeda has apparently taken root in Bangladesh, India's Muslim neighbor to the west? The July 11 Mumbai train bombings, which killed 186 people, increasingly bear al-Qaeda's mark, especially since Saudi money appears to be involved.

--Adele M. Stan

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