Is the development of a Pakistani nuclear arsenal "inevitable"? Is it "discriminatory" to require nuclear conditions on our foreign aid to Pakistan? Will we undercut the 135-nation Nonproliferation Treaty if we extend new aid to Pakistan despite its progress on the bomb? Must we choose between containing the Soviets and the spread of nuclear weapons in South Asia?

These are the questions that have placed some of us in Congress on the horns of a dilemma as we debate the terms for renewing our foreign aid to Pakistan. Given what is at stake, we must have the right answers.

Creation of a Pakistani nuclear arsenal would surely trigger a nuclear arms race in South Asia, one that could lead to an Indo-Pakistani war that would be difficult to contain. And Pakistan's bomb technology may well spread, by espionage if not by design, to its neighbor Iran. Now that our Stinger missiles have turned up in Iran, we must confront the graver risks that Pakistan's bomb may bring to this volatile region.

Are we up to this challenge? Administration spokesmen have told Congress since 1981 that our aid would address Pakistan's defense needs and thereby weaken its perceived need for nuclear weapons. Yet in 1987, as evidence builds that our guns and money have clearly failed to stop Pakistan's pursuit of the bomb, the administration continues to champion this nuclear policy toward Pakistan. Reliable news reports show how far Pakistan has gone:

It is producing bomb-grade uranium and testing a high-explosive triggering package for a nuclear device.

It has routinely violated U.S. and foreign nuclear laws.

It obtained a nuclear weapon design from China and exchanged sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technology. It passed details of bomb parts to procurement agents in the Middle East and Western Europe.

In frustration some now argue that Pakistan's bomb is a fait accompli. Pakistan has indeed acquired the capability to make the bomb. But Pakistan does not yet possess a nuclear arsenal, which would require more bomb-grade uranium than has been produced thus far. We should work to keep it that way.

Others say that it would be a double standard to attach any nuclear conditions to this aid, given the advancements in India's or Israel's nuclear explosives programs. Yet neither India nor Israel, whose programs predate the passage of our nuclear export laws, has demonstrated the systematic disregard for those laws that we have witnessed by Pakistan. In any case, it is a curious argument that suggests the United States is obligated to perpetuate its foreign policy failures.

Some of my Senate colleagues have argued that the Afghan cause is more vital than stopping Pakistan's bomb, and others say the opposite. I believe it is still possible to have a unified policy that is strong on both a free Afghanistan and nuclear nonproliferation. Congress is now moving in this direction.

On Aug. 3, Congress unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution I introduced, stating that Pakistan's "verifiable compliance" with its nuclear commitments is "vital" to any further U.S. military assistance. The time has come for Congress to write this conviction into law.

The administration wants Congress to authorize an unconditional six-year extension of our aid to Pakistan. I too want a long-term extension. But a six-year renewal makes sense only if we receive reliable assurances -- backed up by tough means of verification (with on-site inspections if necessary) -- that Pakistan has stopped producing bomb-grade nuclear materials. Short of this, we should extend aid only on a year-by-year basis, and without military aid if reliable information indicates that Pakistan is continuing to violate its pledge not to produce such materials.

These terms would advance Pakistan's relations with the United States, as well as its other long-term interests. For example, Pakistan's compliance with its past commitments will add credibility to Pakistan's nuclear proposals to India, thereby forcing the Indians to give more serious attention to recent Pakistani proposals for mutual adherence to the Nonproliferation Treaty, a test ban and a nuclear-free zone for South Asia.

But we must face up to the possibility that Pakistan may choose not to honor its commitments to us. If we then cease military assistance to Pakistan, will that mean the abandonment of the Afghan resistance?

Hardly. Pakistan cannot afford to halt assistance to the mujaheddin. There are 3 million Afghan refugees on Pakistani territory who are a growing political force and concern to the Pakistanis. They cannot be ignored. Pakistan is acutely aware that its own security is tied up with a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Its leaders will not commit political suicide by cutting off assistance to the mujaheddin.

There have been fewer headings on America's diplomatic compass that have been steadier than our commitment to nuclear nonproliferation. Eight presidents and more than 20 Congresses have supported this bipartisan commitment. As the architect of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, America is being watched closely by those other 134 parties to the Nonproliferation Treaty. They have lived up to their commitments. Will we live up to ours?

If we do not, President Kennedy once warned, "there would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security and no chance of effective disarmament."

The writer is a Democratic senator from Ohio.