New Delhi and Washington are objecting the nuclear deal between Pakistan and China under which China will export two nuclear power reactors to Pakistan in a USD 2.375-billion agreement. It has been made clear by both countries that 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”.
USA and India object 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.
As India was signing its eighth civilian nuclear deal with Canada on the sidelines of last month’s G20 meeting, its officials were voicing concerns about China’s sale of two power reactors to Pakistan. India’s deal with Canada follows similar agreements with a number of other countries including France and Russia since the exemption it received from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in the wake of the US-India nuclear accord that entered into force in 2008.
So why all the fuss over nuclear power reactors being provided under full international safeguards? The answer might lie in the timing of the orchestrated campaign. Although plans for the third and fourth reactors at Chashma were publicly known years before, opposition to them surfaced at the time of the review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May. This seemed a rather transparent bid to distract attention from the US-India nuclear deal, a fundamental violation of the Treaty and for that reason the source of continuing misgivings among many NPT members.
The reason the US has taken this stance is not hard to fathom. Having concluded a sweeping civilian nuclear deal with India, which was finalised this March, the US is hardly in a position to make a big deal out of this and actively oppose such cooperation between China and Pakistan. In fact the more Washington protests the more its own double standards are exposed to the non-nuclear weapons states. Moreover as some in the nuclear non-proliferation lobby in Washington have acknowledged the US may object but it “cannot prevent China from exporting these reactors”.
Attempts in the Indian media to depict China-Pakistan civilian nuclear cooperation as a “counter” to the Indo-US pact and equate the two are deliberately misleading and spurious. The latter deal has global scope and enables India to gain global access to nuclear material and technology as well as assured fuel supply from whichever supplier nation lines up for commercial advantage. The NSG waiver in fact opened the way for a veritable nuclear souk with eight countries signing agreements with India and Japan about to begin negotiations.