The report on Pakistan's nuclear program {"Possibility of Nuclear Arms Threatens Pakistan's Aid," Oct. 21} accurately portrays the Bush administration's quandary with regard to certifying Pakistan's eligibility for aid. We are now reaping what the Reagan administration sowed during the heady Afghanistan years, when our government looked the other way while Pakistan continued development of its nuclear capability.

Do we have to learn our lessons the hard way every time? Iraq built its war machine right under our benign eye when we hoped it would provide a counterweight to Iran. We should not repeat the same kind of mistake with Pakistan. What is now simply a bureaucratic certification for aid has the potential for mushrooming into a major conflagration in a few years. Consider the possibility of a Pakistan-developed "Islamic bomb" falling into the hands of Libya, Syria and Iran. What does that do to the security of Israel and our own national interest?

We, of course, do have an obligation, as these things go, and a political necessity to help our friends -- but only on our terms. First of all, we should withhold our certification decision until a stable and truly democratic government is formed in Pakistan after the Oct. 24 election. The Bush administration should then make clear to that country that it will be certified eligible for aid only if it agrees to dismantle its nuclear facilities under American supervision.

Henry Kissinger's carrot and stick foreign policy, when compared to Reagan-Bush policy of "all carrots (all cake?) or all sticks," does make some sense now after all.

RAMESH P. RAVELLA Manassas