Much has been written about the China- Pakistan nuclear deal. Given the confusion and squabbling in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), it is likely that the deal will proceed unhindered. It also makes good strategic sense for the two countries. Unfortunately for India, this is bad news.
Pakistan has for the past two years hankered for a nuclear deal similar to the one between India and the US. While the US is not likely to oblige Islamabad with such a deal, the latter has found a willing partner in China. Before two “normal” countries conclude a nuclear deal, they need to, at the least, inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In case the country is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), NSG clearance is mandatory and advance notice to IAEA part of an effort to soothe proliferation concerns. In the case of Pakistan, it is vital to do so as the country has an atrocious record of nuclear proliferation.
China is about to flout all that. It has stated that the deal predates its entry into NSG and hence does not require the latter’s clearance. In fact, the arguments being put forward by Chinese officials are banal.
For example, the deputy secretary general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, Zhai Dequan, was quoted by the China Daily on Wednesday as saying: “Pakistan is also fighting a war on terror for the US as well as for itself, and the country’s loss is greater than the US and the other 42 coalition nations combined. The economic aid it has received is too little compared to its loss. Pakistan has an urgent need for more civil energy and that need should be looked after.”
There are far less contentious sources of energy. But these evidently eluded China and Pakistan. The truth is that both Beijing and Islamabad have been worried about growing economic, military and political ties between India and the US. These, they feel, threaten the balance of power in South Asia. Rebalancing that requires, among other things, transferring nuclear materials technology and armaments to Pakistan. The step only blows away the illusion about China being a responsible power and that its economic ascendancy is not threatening to anyone. It certainly is a threat to India. When NSG deliberates the matter this week, it should keep these facts in mind.
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