Pakistan Blasts U.S.-India Nuke Deal

President Bush's decision to seek Congressional support for a plan to share civilian nuclear technology with India could upset the balance of power in the region, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry said Bush, who visited the South Asian neighbors earlier this month, should have offered both Islamabad and New Delhi similar deals to enhance their respective nuclear programs.

The U.S. plan will "only encourage India to continue its weapons program without any constraint or inhibition," the ministry said in a statement Friday.

Congress must either amend U.S. law or approve an exception for India if the agreement is to go ahead. American law currently restrict the trade of nuclear material and equipment to countries that have not submitted to full nuclear inspections, which India has not done.

"The grant of (such a) waiver as a special case will have serious implications for the security environment in South Asia as well as for international nonproliferation efforts," the statement said.

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in its was on terror, but Washington is refusing to share civilian nuclear technology with it, fearing it may not be able to keep the technology from other countries.

Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998 when it conducted underground tests in response to India's nuclear tests, but the international community was alarmed in 2004 when top Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan admitted supplying Iran, North Korea and Libya with sensitive technology.

Although Khan was quickly detained, he was later pardoned due to his role in making Pakistan a nuclear power.

Energy-starved Pakistan and India are desperately seeking alternative fuel sources — including nuclear and natural gas — to provide for their huge populations and spur economic development. Both countries are discussing with Iran a plan to build a pipeline to supply natural gas, but the United States opposes the proposal.

Officials from Pakistan, India and Iran met this week in Tehran to discuss various technical, commercial and legal aspects of the pipeline, including pricing, the foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday.

"This was the first trilateral meeting at which substantial progress has been achieved" the statement said. The next minister-level meeting will be held in Islamabad at the end of April.

Iran proposed the 1,735-mile pipeline in 1996, but the project never got off the ground, mainly because of Indian concerns over its security in Pakistan. The pipeline, expected to become operational in 2010, would supply around 60 million cubic meters of gas a day to India and up to 30 million cubic meters a day to Pakistan.

Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons and have fought three wars since the bloody partition of the subcontinent at independence from Britain in 1947. A recent peace process has improved relations, but the two nations still consider each other rivals.