If Paul L. Leventhal {"Cut Off Aid to Pakistan," op-ed, Oct. 8} believes that Pakistan is more afraid of losing U.S. economic and military aid than it is of Indian aggression, he shows a complete misunderstanding of South Asian politics.

Mr. Leventhal asserts that by threatening to cut off the U.S. cash flow or by "punishing" Pakistan with actual cutoffs, Congress can force Pakistan to give up the pursuit of nuclear parity with India. This is ridiculous.

Being an American married to a Pakistani and having spent considerable time living in Pakistan, I feel that most Pakistanis are ardent nationalists in matters concerning their primary security threat, India. They would, as former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto declared in 1974, "eat grass" rather than admit inferiority after India's so-called "peaceful" nuclear test explosion.

Pakistanis have lived through cutbacks in vital U.S. aid before -- during and after the 1965 war with India and under the Carter administration in the late '70s, for example. They would surely do it again to preserve their national security and integrity.

There is no way Pakistan, despite some recently improved diplomatic and economic relations with India, will believe that by stopping its nuclear research, India will be "influenced to engage in cooperative efforts," as Mr. Leventhal contends.

If the United States cuts off its substantial aid, Pakistan will only feel more vulnerable and insecure next to its nine-times-larger and conventionally stronger neighbor. By attempting to slap Pakistan's wrist, the United States would not only insult a sovereign nation diplomatically but could also potentially drive one of the few southwest Asian nations still friendly to America into the arms of a radical, like Moammar Gadhafi, who would be only too eager to exchange money for influence.

If Congress for ethical reasons wants to trim aid to Pakistan, that is its prerogative. But no one should for a minute believe that U.S. campaigns for global righteousness or for American security interests are going to outweigh another nation's concern for its own ability to survive.

If the United States wants to reduce the chance of a nuclear conflict in South Asia responsibly, it should concentrate on trying to lessen the ever-present domestic instability that has so often led to armed conflict in the region. Through domestic security and a regional nuclear standoff, there is every chance that Pakistan and India will finally be able to put their long-standing military rivalry behind them -- to everyone's benefit.