11/17/2006, 00.00
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US-India, China-Pakistan new nuclear alliances

US Senate backs nuclear deal with India, but Pakistan and China are unwilling to stay on sidelines. Islamabad conducts a new missile test, whilst reports say Chinese president might announce expanded military cooperation with Pakistan.

Washington (AsiaNews) – The US Senate has approved a nuclear cooperation deal with India. China, meanwhile, is to announce closer cooperation in the field of nuclear energy with Pakistan.

Senators, by a margin of 85 to 12, adopted a bill that would enhance US-Indian cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear power. India, in turn, would allow international inspections in its reactors, even though it is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty.

The Senate bill and a version passed by the House of Representatives, the lower house of the US Congress, must now be reconciled and approved by Mr Bush before the legislation can take effect.

US president Bush hailed the deal, saying that as "India's economy continues to grow, this partnership will help [. . .] meet its energy needs without increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions".

However, others are not as pleased by the announcement believing that the deal will constitute a precedent and will make it harder for the US to hold a hard-line position against the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

Pakistan might be the first country though to break ranks after Washington rebuffed Islamabad' demand for the same kind of cooperation. Now Pakistani leaders are openly toying with the China card, whilst Beijing is interested in containing US influence in the region.

Some analysts believe that Chinese President Hu Jintao will offer Pakistan help to build new nuclear power stations in his upcoming visit to that country.

"The political intent is quite certain. The specifics are less certain, but this will be a political gesture above all," a diplomatic observer in Beijing said.

Any agreement will show that China values its "all-weather friend" Pakistan, even while Beijing courts India, a sometimes bitter rival of both countries.

When Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited Beijing in February, both sides announced they would "continue strengthening co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy".

Experts believe that Mr Hu will talk about the state of Sino-Pakistani relations but also reassure the international community that any nuclear co-operation would be for peaceful purposes only and would accept international safeguards.

Pakistan and India have staged regular nuclear tests following the first one in May 1998. The latest was conducted yesterday by Pakistan in an undisclosed area.

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See also
Government crisis over nuclear deal with United States
China fails moral test in its deals with Pakistan
Tehran resolute as UN prepares to deal with nuclear issue
Washington trying to save nuclear deal with New Delhi
Kim Jong-il: world's most professional blackmailer


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