China's plan to build two nuclear reactors in Pakistan has
prompted concern about nuclear proliferation. The two nations may
aim to counter mutual rival India, which signed a nuclear deal with
the US last year.
A $2.4 billion nuclear reactor deal between China and Pakistan
aimed at reducing Pakistan's chronic energy shortage has cast light
on the decades-old strategic partnership that Chinese President Hu
Jintao described as "higher than the mountains, deeper than the
The agreement, announced last week, would see the construction
two 650-Megawatt nuclear reactors, and it reaffirms the longtime
alliance between the two nations particularly as their shared rival
India and the United States also deepen ties.
But the proposed deal reignites concerns surrounding Pakistan's
history of nuclear proliferation - most notably through its former
top nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, who confessed in 2004 to leaking
nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.
Beijing has repeatedly dismissed such concerns. "Civilian nuclear
energy cooperation between China and Pakistan is completely in line
with international obligations of nonproliferation, and is
completely for peaceful purposes," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin
Gang said Tuesday. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari will make
his fifth official visit to China next week.
Fears of proliferation
Nonetheless, the agreement has caused concern particularly in the
United States and India. Although the two signed their own landmark
civilian nuclear deal in 2005, they did so after gaining an
exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 46 member
countries that oversee the export of nuclear technology.
The NSG cautions against sharing nuclear technology with
countries that have a record of proliferation, as Pakistan does, or
that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Neither India nor Pakistan has signed the NPT, but India was granted
a waiver after undergoing international inspections.
"The Indian example is not a precedent since India's exemption
had to go through the US legislative scrutiny and the NSG
exemption," wrote K Subrahmanyam in the Times of India. "Pakistan
cannot compare its non-proliferation record with that of India. The
exoneration of A.Q. Khan by the judiciary of charges of unauthorized
nuclear trade clearly implies that Pakistani proliferation had the
approval of successive governments in Islamabad."
Last month, the US State Department sought to "clarify" details
of the arrangement, while iterating nations' obligations to
China claims the two reactors were in the pipeline before it
joined the NSG in 2004 and should thus be exempted.
What China wants
Pakistan sought a similar nuclear deal from the US in 2005, but
was denied. "Pakistan and India are different countries with
different needs and different histories," then-President Bush said
at the time.
On Wednesday, however, US joint chiefs of staff chairman Admiral
Mike Mullen sought to down play the idea that Pakistan is a loose
cannon when it comes to nuclear proliferation. Unlike Iran and North
Korea, he said, Pakistan makes "extraordinary efforts" to protect
its arsenal. …