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Pak-China Relations: Legitimacy of The Nuclear Deal

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By Sajjad Shaukat

Nuclear reactor for energy needs

While rejecting US objections, China has once again clarified that it will supply two nuclear reactors to Pakistan under the old nuclear deal.

As regards the legitimacy of Pak-China nuclear deal, Qin Gang, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry has already made it clear, saying: “the nuclear cooperation between the two countries is for peaceful purposes and is  totally in consistent with its international obligations and safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA).”

On the other side, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit also said, “Pakistan’s civilian nuclear deal with China is in accordance with the international norms and is strictly in line with the principles set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency. To a question about the Indian prime minister’s statement that Pakistan would have to clarify the position regarding the Pak-China nuclear cooperation, he elaborated, “Pak-China cooperation in the civilian nuclear technology sector is not a sudden development, as both countries had been running the programme successfully for the last many years and any demand of clarification in this regard is unjustified.”

Without any logic, America also objects that Pak-China nuclear deal will violate “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.”

The fact of the matter is that Pak-China Nuclear deal was concluded in 1986 when Beijing 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 90 percent progress had already been made on the deal between Pakistan and China. Hence, neither of the two is applicable to this deal.

It is notable that the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2005 which was finalized in 2008, provides the precedent, and in fact, has opened the door for any similar sort of nuclear deal in the future. Indeed, after setting precedent by themselves, both India and the US have no legal and moral grounds to challenge the legality of the Pak-China nuclear deal.

It is mentionable that the United States is not in a position to force Beijing and Islamabad to cancel their nuclear cooperation as it has lot of stakes attached to China  and Pakistan. In this regard, Chinese consent is necessary for imposing the enhanced sanctions on Iran. The issue of North Korean nuclearization and security threats it is posing to other regional countries, especially South Korea cannot be resolved without the assistance of China. Besides, economists opine that the falling US economy has largely been sustained by Bejing because Washington is the biggest trade partner of China at the global level.

So far as Pakistan is concerned, United States cannot fight a ‘different war’ in Afghanistan without the active support of Islamabad, while it is already loosing the Afghan war and needs Pakistani assistance to a greater extent.

Regarding Pak-China civil nuclear deal, it is noteworthy that a comprehensive nuclear cooperation agreement between Pakistan and then Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqub Khan and his Chinese counterpart in the presence of Chinese prime minister and PAEC chairperson Dr. Munir A. Khan was signed on September 15, 1986 at Beijing. The salient clauses of the agreement include that Beijing would construct four nuclear plants in Pakistan namely; Chasma 1, 2, 3 and 4 by 2011.

It is worthmentioning about the mandate and origin of NSG that it was created after the nuclear test of India in 1974, once New Delhi diverted the fuel meant for the atom for peace to its weapon programme. If India, the main proliferator could be given such a concession by the NSG as to why Pakistan be deprived from it. Indeed, India got it by America to counterbalance China. Concerning its legality of NSG, it was created in 1975 to regulate and standardize the nuclear trade in reaction to Indian misuse of nuclear material. Its creation was not through an international treaty, but it is a global cartel of nuclear technology suppliers.

American officials are of the opinion that countries that have not signed the NPT so far cannot be granted this nuclear facility. These officials are indeed overlooking the aspects that India has also not signed the NPT. Washington also considers that additional nuclear cooperation with Islamabad beyond those specific projects that were grandfathered in 2004 would require consensus approval. However, Pakistan and China rejects these unjustified and baseless observations. While the US had not only violated the NPT, but also violated the Hyde Act 2006 by finalising a civil nuclear deal with India under the pretext of cooperation on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

As a matter of fact, both IAEA and NSG are under the pressure of the United States  in order to ease their clauses for the Indo-US nuclear agreement, but are now creating obstacles for Pakistan in this respect. Nevertheless, particulary IAEA exempts Indian nuclear reactors, providing safeguards—allowing sufficient fissile material to make around 280 warheads per year. Following the 123 Agreement, US and India has signed another agreement on nuclear fuel reprocessing to further augment the deal. According to the deal, New Delhi will be allowed to recycle the US spent nuclear fuel. It would enable the participation of the US firms in India’s rapidly expanding civil nuclear energy sector. Without any doubt, US-India civil nuclear deal is in fact US-Indian collusion in relation to nuclear weapons proliferation programme.

On the other hand, Pak-China nuclear deal is meant for the power generation only and it would be completely under the IAEA safeguards, therefore, there must be no legal hurdle in its finalization. It is in accordance with the international law, therefore Indian and American objections are baseless.

Notably, on the issue of Indo-US Nuclear deal, China did not oppose the same being a member of NSG. Now, once China is providing only a friction of that to Pakistan, why should US obstruct it?

Again, Pak-China nuclear deal is under the IAEA safeguards and thus has nothing to do with the proliferation of nuclear material. It is purely meant for the production of nuclear energy as Pakistan’s energy shortages are well-known to the international community. Our country is facing worst energy shortages of its history. So being a traditional ally, US should have catered for the Pakistan’s energy needs. Regrettably, instead of itself providing the facilities to Pakistan like India, Washington has been becoming an obstactle in the provision of this facility by China. Question arises that in its entire history, Islamabad has been doing everything for the US and West, but what had they done for Pakistan?

Moreover, both China and Pakistan are responsible nuclear powers. And in this context, their cooperation is totally according to their respective international responsibilities.

Returning to our earlier discussion, the Pak-China nuclear deal is purely for peaceful objectives and is legitimate.

Sajjad Shaukat is a regular contributor to www.opinion-maker.org He writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.

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