By Kay Johnson
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's foreign secretary on Tuesday told a U.S. envoy his country has the "credentials" to join a club of nuclear trading nations, signalling Islamabad may apply alongside India and force a showdown in the consensus-based group next month.
Such a move would drag the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) into the long-running tension between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed neighbours who have fought three wars since being split amid violence at the end British colonial rule in 1947.
Diplomats last year quietly launched a new push to induct India into the NSG - a 48-nation club dedicated to curbing nuclear arms proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that could foster nuclear weapons development.
"Pakistan expressed confidence in its credentials to become full member of the export control regimes, particularly Nuclear Suppliers Group," the Foreign Ministry's official spokesman said in a tweet.
The comment followed talks on Tuesday in Islamabad between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.
Membership of the NSG would increase India's international clout and provide a vested interest in curbing the world's most dangerous regional arms race, but the prospects are fraught.
The campaign for India membership is seen as carrying the risk of antagonising Pakistan as well as its ally China, which could veto any India application.
China could also insist as a condition of India's membership that Pakistan also be allowed to join, a potential hard sell because of Islamabad's development of new tactical nuclear weapons.
A further complication is that neither India nor Pakistan has signed the nuclear Non-Profileration Treaty, generally seen as a prerequisite to NSG membership.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group is expected to hold its next meeting in June.
The NSG was created in response to India's testing its first nuclear weapon in 1974.
(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Alison Williams)