The US has asked arch-rivals India and Pakistan to set aside their differences and sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Welcoming Pakistan's recent proposal to India for a bilateral agreement on nuclear weapons test ban, Washington has urged the two countries to hold talks.

Mark Toner, the State Department deputy spokesperson, said: "We welcome this high-level dialogue between India and Pakistan, encourage both countries to engage in the dialogue and exercise restraint aimed at improving strategic stability."

In the last two weeks, Pakistan has twice offered to sign up for a bilateral moratorium asking if India would agree to a mutual ban on testing of nuclear atomic weapons. It has said the arrangement would enable the easy entry of the two countries into the elite Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), which both Delhi and Islamabad have been eyeing for a long time.

"I think this proposal is something we would leave to India's consideration," Toner said at his daily briefing. "It remains in our view that the most practical way to achieve a legally binding commitment on nuclear explosive testing would be for both states to sign and ratify the CTBT," The New Indian Express quoted him as saying.

India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) although both are nuclear-armed nations. India has been strongly lobbying for a membership of the NSG, but it was stonewalled by China as the 48- member nations remained divided over accepting a non-NPT country into the bloc.

Although India and Pakistan have individually declared that they will not conduct further nuclear tests, Pakistan, and now the US too, feel a unilateral moratorium could benefit the two countries.

On Tuesday (23 August), Pakistan announced a fresh move to seek support for its NSG membership bid. Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, embarked on a visit to Belarus and Kazakhstan to win their backing, The Hindu reported.

While India was kept out, Pakistan's membership was not discussed during the plenary meeting of the NSG in Seoul in June. Although it has China on its side, it failed to get the backing of the US.