Pakistan has pressed its demand for an atomic deal similar to the one granted to India by the US, saying the security of its strategic assets and growing energy needs qualify it for "civil nuclear cooperation at the international level".
"Having more than 35 years (of) experience of operating nuclear power plants, highly trained manpower and a well established safety and security culture, Pakistan fully qualifies for equal participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level," an official statement said on Monday.
The statement was issued after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani chaired a meeting of the National Command Authority, the body comprising civil and military officials that controls Pakistan's nuclear assets.
It was the second meeting of the NCA chaired by Gilani since President Asif Ali Zardari handed over control of the body to the premier last year.
Nuclear safety and security and safeguards are "vehicles for facilitating international civil nuclear cooperation", the statement said.
"The objectives of non-proliferation and nuclear safety and security can be promoted through a non- discriminatory approach for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," it added.
Pakistan raised its demand for a civil nuclear deal similar to the one granted to India during its strategic dialogue with the US last month.
Unlike in the past, the US did not completely rule out the possibility of such a deal though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned such pacts do not happen "easily or quickly".
Pakistan has been demanding a nuclear deal with the US similar to the one Washington has with India. But, the US has been taking the demand coolly due to proliferation concerns mainly arising out of A Q Khan's links with countries like North Korea and Iran.
The meeting of the National Command Authority reviewed policies and measures put in place for the safety and security of nuclear materials and facilities and expressed "full confidence in the arrangements for custodial controls and safety and security of Pakistan's strategic assets and the effectiveness of Pakistan's strategic deterrence", the statement said.
The NCA said that Pakistan, "as a nuclear weapon state with advanced nuclear technology and expertise", is fully cognizant of its responsibilities.
"The nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation measures put in place by Pakistan were supported by extensive legislative, regulatory and administrative framework," it said.
While expressing confidence in indigenous knowhow and technology to maintain nuclear safety and security systems, Pakistan will continue to benefit "from IAEA's relevant programmes on nuclear security, consistent with national policies and interests".
The NCA also said that Pakistan's socio-economic development depends on its ability to meet rapidly expanding energy requirements."There was a need to explore all options to ensure a reliable energy mix. Civil nuclear power generation was therefore an essential part of the national energy security strategy," the statement said.