Pakistan To Get 2 Nuclear Reactors From China

   Persistent speculation in recent weeks that China plans to supply two nuclear reactors to Pakistan in defiance of international rules gained fresh momentum today as a leading Washington think tank reported that Beijing is about to announce the deal.

 Such a decision could cloud the recent improvement in Sino-Indian relations amidst the assessment that Beijing may justify the deal with Pakistan on the grounds of nuclear stability in South Asia and the need for parity between Delhi and Islamabad.

 Well known nuclear analyst Mark Hibbs, currently at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said in a report today that “contrary to guidelines adopted in 1992 by nuclear equipment supplier states in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), China is poised to export two power reactors to Pakistan”.

“China has argued”, according to Hibbs, “that there are compelling political reasons concerning the stability of South Asia to justify the exports.”

Citing diplomatic sources, Hibbs says that China will “not justify the transactions on the basis of any confidential commercial agreements between China and Pakistan”.

 Under the current guidelines of the nuclear suppliers group (NSG), no nuclear transfers are allowed to countries that do not sign the non-proliferation treaty or do not accept comprehensive international safeguards on their nuclear programme. While India got an exemption to this framework in 2008, the rules continue to apply to Pakistan.

 China has had expansive military and civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan since the late 1970s, but Beijing had agreed to severely limit it when it joined the NSG in 2004. Yet as negotiations on the Indo-US civil nuclear initiative limped along after it was announced in July 2005, Beijing allowed its state entities to negotiate an agreement to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan in 2006.

Citing diplomatic sources, Hibbs says that China will “not justify the transactions on the basis of any confidential commercial agreements between China and Pakistan”.

Under the current guidelines of the nuclear suppliers group (NSG), no nuclear transfers are allowed to countries that do not sign the non-proliferation treaty or do not accept comprehensive international safeguards on their nuclear programme. While India got an exemption to this framework in 2008, the rules continue to apply to Pakistan.

China has had expansive military and civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan since the late 1970s, but Beijing had agreed to severely limit it when it joined the NSG in 2004. Yet as negotiations on the Indo-US civil nuclear initiative limped along after it was announced in July 2005, Beijing allowed its state entities to negotiate an agreement to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan in 2006.

China’s political leadership, however, was unwilling to confirm this deal when President Hu Jintao visited Pakistan at the end of 2006. In the last few weeks there have been frequent reports in Pakistani media that Beijing is now ready to press ahead.

The Carnegie report today cited senior NSG diplomats as saying that they expect Beijing to “inform the NSG of its planned transaction”. The report also added that the Obama administration might “accept a limited amount of additional Chinese nuclear commerce with Pakistan as a price for getting Chinese support on UN Security Council sanctions against Iran in weeks ahead.” 

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