Pakistan-China time-tested relationship: NSG membership and civil nuclear cooperation

By Shahzadi Tooba Hussain Syed

China has assured Pakistan of support in the country’s bid to become a member of the 48-nation multinational body (Nuclear Suppliers Group NSG) that aims to reduce nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.

The assurance was given during the visit of a high-level delegation led by President Mamnoon Hussain to Beijing recently. The Pakistan delegation underscored the country’s need to get entry into the group to quench its need to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The issue was discussed at length and Pakistan highlighted its point of view saying that it has equal right to join the group for fulfilling its requirement for peaceful use of nuclear technology.

Keeping in view the double standards of the West, Michael Krepon and Toby Dalton suggested some of the steps/initiatives in their report (based on assumptions) few months ago to mainstreaming Nuclear Pakistan. On the other hand Krepon also said that “Pakistan does not have the money to buy a nuclear plant while India has”. It is believed that the US and the West would not give loans to Pakistan to buy a nuclear power plant while the Civil Nuclear cooperation depends upon the mutual strategic interest of the states concerned. Even they would not grant loans for Bhasha dam, a hydropower electric generation project, then why would they give loans of $4 to $6 billion dollar for a nuclear power plant?

China, being member of the group and holding the veto power, assured Pakistan that it will take all measures so that it also becomes the member of the NSG.  Pakistan has been saying that if it is deprived of NSG membership while India is accommodated, it would be taken as discrimination and lead to an imbalance in the region. China replied that “if India is allowed to join NSG and Pakistan is deprived of the membership of the group, Beijing will veto the move to block Indian entry.”

China’s participation in the construction of Gwadar port, 180 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz through which 40% of world’s traded oil passes, and up-gradation of KKH amply speak of China’s realization of the value of linkage with Pakistan.

To  undergird  the  strong  strategic  ties  in  political  and  defence  and defence production fields, it has been  agreed to  step up cooperation and coordination in space science and technology, maritime security, climate change, food, and UN reform. What is equally significant is China’s offer to help Pakistan in overcoming its crippling energy crisis.  An  Energy Cooperation  Mechanism  is  to  be  established  to  promote  cooperation  in conventional,  renewable  and  civil  nuclear  energy. Pakistan and China already agreed to continue bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy under IAEA safeguards, in line with their respective bilateral and multilateral commitments.

China has assisted Pakistan in building six nuclear reactors with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts. The upcoming 2200MW nuclear power plants – K-2 and K-3 – in Karachi are also being set up with Chinese assistance. Pakistan has set the target of generating 8800MW from nuclear power and has been eyeing Chinese cooperation. China declared the first two reactors it already agreed to construct for Pakistan – the Chashma-1 and Chashma 2 – at the time it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, with the expectation that no new deals would follow. But in 2010, the China National Nuclear Cooperation announced it would export technology for two new reactors, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4 because it argued that these projects were already grandfathered in under previous agreements rather than being fresh proposals.

China is combating the Indo-U.S. policy to tackle the “Rise of China” in South Asia. According to Rober D. Kaplan, writing in the  New York  Times  of  12  November;  2010,  President  Obama’s visits (2010)  to India,  Indonesia, South Korea and Japan were “about one challenge: the rise of China on land and sea.” India’s exemption and membership to NSG is also part of that policy. Well only time will tell how much China’s assurance matters.

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Shahzadi Tooba Hussain Syed

Shahzadi Tooba Hussain Syed works at Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

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