Ambassador: Pakistan Wants Civilian Nuke Deal With U.S.

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Pakistan should have the same access to U.S. civilian nuclear technology that President Bush has proposed for India, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States says.

Jehangir Karamat (search), Pakistan's former army chief, also warned that "the balance of power in South Asia should not become so tilted in India's favor, as a result of the U.S. relationship with India, that Pakistan has to start taking extraordinary measures to ensure a capability for deterrencies under safeguards of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency. On Thursday, two undersecretaries of state, Nicholas Burns and Robert Joseph, were to testify before a House International Relations Committee hearing on the India-U.S. nuclear agreement.

"Whatever legislation is made shouldn't be a specific, one-time affair just for India," Karamat told The Associated Press in a recent interview, "but should leave the door open for other countries that meet the same criteria and show good responsibility and satisfy the United States' concerns."

Critics, however, contend that Pakistan's is a different case from India's. A.Q. Khan (search), a national hero known as the father of Pakistan's bomb, ran a network smuggling nuclear weapons technology.

Doubts also have arisen about Pakistan's commitment to democracy. President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (search) seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999 and has failed to resign as the army chief, as he promised to do.

Neither Pakistan nor India is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (search), the cornerstone of global efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Before nuclear technology can be shared with India, Congress must approve an exception to a U.S. law that bans civilian nuclear cooperation with countries that have not submitted to the treaty's full nuclear inspections.

With India and Pakistan locked in a nuclear arms race, both are sensitive to perceived special treatment from the United States, said Michael Krepon, a South Asia analyst at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a private research group.

The neighbors have fought three wars since 1947, when they left the British Empire, and came close to another in 2002.

"This is a very serious competition," Krepon said. "If present trends continue, India and Pakistan could very well have greater nuclear capabilities than France and Great Britain, looking down the road."

Karamat said Pakistani officials have yet to approach the Bush administration about civilian nuclear energy cooperation, but Pakistan plans eventually to broach the subject.

He mentioned the strong military ties between the two countries. The United States trains Pakistani soldiers and sells weapons to Pakistan. And Musharraf was a vital U.S. ally in the war in neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001 that ousted that country's Taliban militia rulers and the Al Qaeda (search) fighters they sheltered.

Pakistan has requested between 75 and 100 U.S. F-16 fighter jets, Karamat said, although the two sides haven't yet settled the specific number or cost. Two of the jets will be shipped in December, he said, but a price has not been determined.

The ambassador acknowledged widespread criticism of Pakistan's nuclear program, especially "concerns on proliferation" — a reference to Khan's activities.

"I think that those concerns have been largely met and satisfied," Karamat said. "The whole structure on the ground for physical security and control of those (nuclear) assets and the various steps that have been taken to prevent accidents and illegal transfers — those are now foolproof, and the U.S. is aware of that."

Karamat served as army chief from 1996 to 1998. When asked if he knew of Khan's nuclear network then, he said: "There was no question of ever even thinking that such a thing could be happening. ... Indulging this activity would have been totally counterproductive to everything we were trying to do."