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Pak for same US N-deal as India

Kasuri told Senate any deal to supply technology for nuclear programmes for India should also be available to Pak.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 20:49 IST

Stung by US President George Bush's refusal to grant access to nuclear know-how, Pakistan accused the United States of discriminating against it and of upsetting the balance of power in South Asia.

Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told the Senate that any deal to supply technology for civilian nuclear power programmes for India should also available to Pakistan.

Bush, in a visit to Islamabad earlier this month immediately after concluding a nuclear accord in New Delhi, told President Pervez Musharraf that Pakistan was not being considered for a similar deal because of its different "history" and different needs.

"Pakistan will not accept any discriminatory treatment," Kasuri said.

"The US must have a package approach while dealing with India and Pakistan."

India and Pakistan almost went to war for a fourth time in 2002, and a two-year old peace process between South Asia's nuclear armed rivals is already flagging.

On Tuesday, at a seminar in Islamabad, Pakistani defence analysts aired fears that US-India deal would sway the balance of power in South Asia even further in India's favour.

"This imbalance now gets even worse as a consequence of America's total and all out support to India," said Talat Masood, a former general turned political analyst.

Visiting Pakistan last week at Bush's behest, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman gave Pakistani officials short shrift when they floated ideas of creating "nuclear parks" for US companies to develop nuclear energy plants.

Despite being told to forget about any deal, Pakistani officials' protestations have become louder in recent days, possibly encouraged, analysts say, by the strong criticism Bush encountered at home over the concession to India, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Pakistan, though a key ally of the United States in a global war on terrorism, remains under a cloud due to the role played by its top scientist in a nuclear black market scandal.

The disgraced scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, was placed under house arrest over two years ago after admitting selling nuclear parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea, and US investigators have been barred from questioning him.

The Pakistani military's past support for Islamist militant groups, some of which latterly forged links with Al-Qaeda, also does not help Pakistan's case, analysts say.

Compared with India's robust democracy, Pakistan has repeatedly switched between civilian and military rule making it hard to predict what kind of government will follow in the post-Musharraf era, analysts said.

Bush voiced confidence that Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup in 1999, aimed to fully restore democracy.

But so far the general has stifled the mainstream political parties and allowed anti-American Islamists increasing influence, despite his own espousal of policies of "enlightened moderation".

The United States meantime has engaged India, seeing opportunities in its growing economic power, and, according to analysts, its potential as regional counterweight to China.

Pakistan's hopes that friendship with the United States could give it extra diplomatic muscle in dealing with rival India have been dashed, analysts say.

"I don't expect any 180 degree turn in our foreign policy, but we should re-evaluate our reference points with the United States," said Shireen Mazari, head of the Institute of Strategic Studies.

"We should put a brake on our open-ended cooperation ... We are not as weak as we think we are."

Shifting alliances could see Pakistan turn once more toward its old friend, China.

Late last week, Pakistani media reported Musharraf as saying he will seek more support from Beijing.

China helped Pakistan build a 300 mw nuclear plant at Chasma town in Pubjab province and is currently helping to build a second facility at the same site.

First Published: Mar 21, 2006 19:37 IST