Under the heading “China may finance Pakistan reactors”, the “China Daily” has reported as follows on June 23,2010::
China will likely go ahead with financing the construction of two nuclear reactors in Pakistan despite concerns from other countries, say Chinese experts.
China is expected to announce its plans to build the reactors in Punjab province at a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in New Zealand on Thursday. Meanwhile the United States, with heavy lobbying from India, is reportedly raising doubts over the legitimacy of the deal.
One of the concerns is that Pakistan, as well as India, did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and therefore is technically not restricted from transferring the technology to a third party, posing a potential threat to the international community.
“This is not the first time China has helped Pakistan build nuclear reactors, and since it will be watched by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the deal is not going to have any problems,” said Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.
Zhai said the US will not pressure China too much as it previously struck a deal with India. In 2008, the NSG – which represents the 46 countries that control the world’s atomic trade – made an exemption allowing Washington to sell civil nuclear technology to New Delhi. Pakistan has stressed many times it wants the same recognition as India on civil nuclear usage.
“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,” said Zhai.
The US asked China to clarify the details of the deal last Wednesday, after intense urging from India, but stopped short of publicly opposing it. On Thursday ( My comment: Tuesday?) China said the reactors are for peaceful purposes, and will accept the IAEA’s inspection. China joined the NSG in 2004 but has already built one reactor and started a second at Chashma, Punjab. The latest two reactors in the region will generate 650 megawatts each.
Although the deal is not likely to attract strong opposition, NSG members still do not want to see the transaction go forward, according to Mark Hibbs, nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Policy in Washington. However, Hibbs said the US-India deal set a precedent.
“There was no real agreement between the members about how to proceed,” the Australian Radio quoted him as saying.
Fan Jishe, a scholar of US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argues that the nature of the Sino-Pakistani deal is different from that of the US-India deal.
“We do not need an exemption from the NSG, as requested by the US, since the deal was reached before we joined the group,” Fan said.
(The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)