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India army chief calls for Pakistan nuclear cap

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The world must put pressure on Pakistan to restrict its nuclear capabilities, India’s army chief said on Friday, adding that reports of Pakistan stockpiling nuclear arsenal was a matter of serious concern.

Indian army chief General Deepak Kapoor addresses a news conference in Beerwah, about 40 km north of Srinagar, October 6, 2007, file photo. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The New York Times last week reported U.S. lawmakers were told in confidential briefings that Pakistan was rapidly adding to its nuclear capability, stoking fears in Congress about the diversion of U.S. funds.

Islamabad dismissed the report, saying Pakistan was determined to maintain a minimum nuclear deterrence as nuclear-armed rival India beefed up its conventional forces.

As Pakistan battles a growing Taliban insurgency, reports in U.S. media have raised the nightmare scenario of its nuclear weapons falling into militant hands.

“I think the world community should put the kind of pressure which is required on Pakistan to cap the enhancement of their nuclear capability,” General Deepak Kapoor told reporters.

“They require a certain minimum amount (nuclear capability), but ... Pakistan’s attempts to increase the number of its nuclear weapons is a matter of serious concern.”

Pakistan tested nuclear devices in May 1998 in a tit-for-tat response to India’s own atomic tests just days before. The neighbours have fought three wars since 1947.

Relations between the two sides nosedived in November after gunmen attacked Mumbai and killed 166 civilians. New Delhi blamed the assault on Pakistan-based militants and “paused” a four-year-old peace initiative. It said Islamabad needed to act against the planners of the attack to revive peace talks.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs last week approved tripling U.S. economic aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years, including money for schools, the judiciary, parliament and law enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration was confident Pakistan would not use a planned increase in U.S. aid to strengthen its nuclear arsenal.

Reporting by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Alex Richardson