October 2, 2008 / 8:49 AM / 11 years ago

Pakistan PM eyes nuclear deal after India-U.S. pact

MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - India’s landmark nuclear trade agreement with the United States should open the way for a similar deal for Pakistan, the country’s prime minister said on Thursday.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaks during a flag raising ceremony in Islamabad in this August 14, 2008 file photo. India's landmark nuclear trade agreement with the United States should open the way for a similar deal for Pakistan, the country's prime minister said on Thursday. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

The U.S. Congress approved the deal late on Wednesday ending a three-decade ban on U.S. nuclear trade with India, unleashing billions of dollars of investment and drawing the world’s biggest democracy closer to the West.

Critics say the deal does grave damage to global efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons, by letting India import nuclear fuel and technology even though it has tested nuclear weapons and never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In nuclear-armed Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the deal should not be seen as a cause for concern.

“You don’t have to be worried about it,” Gilani told reporters in his home town of Multan when asked about the deal.

Pakistan has fought three wars with India since their independence in 1947 and nearly went to war a fourth time in 2002. Their relations have improved since they began a peace process in early 2004.

“Pakistan will now be justified to also make a demand for a similar deal as we don’t want discrimination,” Gilani said.

“Pakistan will also now make efforts for a civil nuclear (deal) and they will have to accommodate us,” he said.

Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in May 1998 in a tit-for-tat response to tests by India. Pakistan has also never signed up to the NPT.

Pakistan is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid and is a major ally in the U.S.-led campaign against militancy.

But in U.S. eyes, Pakistan cannot be treated like India because it lacks a long track record of democracy and nuclear non-proliferation.

A ring led by the scientist seen as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, smuggled bomb-suitable nuclear technology to unstable regions before it was smashed in 2004.

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