Hampering Pak-China nuclear deal

Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

In the wake of ongoing misperceptions, China has clarified that it will provide nuclear reactors to Pakistan under the years old nuclear deal. As clarified by Qin Gang, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, that the, “the nuclear cooperation between the two countries was for peaceful purposes and are “totally consistent” with its international obligations and safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency”. Under the deal, “China will export two nuclear power reactors to Pakistan in a USD 2.375-billion agreement.

New Delhi and Washington objects that this deal will breach the international protocol, regarding the trade of nuclear equipment and material. U.S also object that this deal will overstep “the guidelines of the 46-country Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which bars nuclear commerce between Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) members like China and non-member states like Pakistan”. Indeed, Pak-China Nuclear Deal was concluded in 1986, when China was neither the member of NSG nor it had signed the NPT. China signed the NPT in 1992 and became the member of NSG in 2004. By 2004, almost ¾th progresses had already been made on the deal between Pakistan and China. Therefore, neither of the two is applicable in case of this deal. Furthermore, the ‘Indo-US Nuclear Deal-2005’ later finalized in 2008, provides the precedence, and actually has opened the door for any such like deal in the future. Indeed, after setting precedence by itself, U.S has no legal and moral grounds to object the Pak-China Nuclear Deal.

United States otherwise cannot afford to object this deal, as it has lot of stakes attached to China or Pakistan. Chinese consent is essential for imposing the enhanced sanctions on Iran, currently underway. The issue of North Korean nuclearization and security threats it is posing to other regional countries like South Korea cannot be resolved without the assistance from the China. On the economic fronts, US stakes are quite high. Economists’ view that the falling US economy has been sustained by China largely, as US is biggest trade partner of China at the global level. As regards Pakistan, United States cannot stay a day in Afghanistan without the active support of Pakistan. It is otherwise loosing the Afghan war and need Pakistani assistance more than earlier. Otherwise, on the issue of Indo-US Nuclear Deal, China did not oppose as a member of NSG. Now, once China is providing only a friction of that to Pakistan, why should US obstruct it?

Pakistani Foreign Office has rejected the Indo-US concerns over the Pak-China civil nuclear deal. The spokesperson said that, “Pakistan-China civil nuclear cooperation is going on for years. Our cooperation is under the relevant IAEA safeguards. Therefore concerns, if any, are misplaced”. While tracing the history of Pak-China Civil Nuclear, it is pertinent to note that, a Comprehensive Nuclear cooperation Agreement between Pakistan and then Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqub Khan and his Chinese counterpart in the presence of Chinese Premier and PAEC chairperson Dr. Munir A. Khan signed China on September 15, 1986 at Beijing. The salient clauses of the agreement include that, China would construct; four nuclear plants in Pakistan namely; Chasma 1, 2, 3 and 4 by 2011.

Regarding the mandate of and origin of NSG, it was created after the nuclear test of India in 1974, once India diverted the fuel meant for the atom for peace to its weapon programme. If India, the primary proliferators, could be given such a concession by the NSG, why Pakistan be deprived from it. Indeed, India got this by US to counter the China. About its legality of NSG, it was created in 1975 to regulate and standardize the nuclear trade, in reaction to Indian misuse of nuclear material. Its creation was not through an international treaty, but is an international cartel of nuclear technology suppliers.

US officials consider that countries that have not signed the NPT so far cannot be granted the facility. The super power is perhaps overlooking the aspects that India is also a non-signatory to NPT. US also consider that, “Additional nuclear cooperation with Pakistan beyond those specific projects that were grandfathered in 2004 would require consensus approval” However, Pakistan and China rejects these, since it is like, “the pot calling the kettle black”. Indeed, “US had not only violated the NPT, but had also violated the Hyde Act 2006, (by finalising a similar deal with India regarding cooperation on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes).” Since the Pak-China deal would be under the IAEA safeguards, therefore, there would be no legal hurdle in its finalization. In the mean time the Chinese Foreign Ministry has clarified that the deal is in accordance with the international law, therefore, rejects the Indian and American objections.

Both IAEA and NSG bowed to US pressure for easing its clauses for the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, but now creating hurdles for Pakistan. Indeed, in contrast to the 123 Agreements, the Pak-China deal is meant for the power generation only. However, the 123 Agreement, “exempts nuclear reactors from IAEA safeguards allowing sufficient fissile material to make around 280 warheads per year.

This is in addition to India’s ongoing programme of 13 fast breeder reactors. As such, it is a misnomer to calls Agreement 123 as ‘US-India Civil Nuclear Deal’. It is indeed US-Indian collusion toward nuclear weapons proliferation programme.” Following the 123 Agreement, India, and US has signed another agreement on nuclear fuel reprocessing to further augment the deal. According to the deal India will be allowed to recycle the US spent nuclear fuel. The agreement would enable the participation of the US firms in India’s rapidly expanding civil nuclear energy sector.

Apart from the precedence set by the Indo-US Nuclear Deal-2005, the Pak-China deal has the legal cover. It was concluded much eelier than the China became the member of NSG or NPT. Moreover, it is under the IAEA safeguards, hence has nothing to do with the proliferation of nuclear material. It is purely meant for the production of nuclear energy. Pakistan’s energy shortages are known to the world. It is facing worst energy shortages of its history. Being a traditional ally, US should have catered for the Pakistan’s energy needs. Instead of herself providing the facilities to Pakistan like India, she should not become a hurdle in the provision of this facility by China. In its entire history, Pakistan has been doing everything for the US and West, what did they do for Pakistan is a big question mark?

—The writer is an IR analyst.

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