The various regimes formed by the international community to contain nuclear (weapons) non-proliferation, starting from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), have been subjective and catered to power projection of five countries – the Permanent-5 (P-5) nuclear club. China’s decision to supply two more nuclear power reactors to Pakistan has thrown open the entire nuclear non-proliferation issue, and the effectiveness of the regimes to prevent proliferation. True, Pakistan is suffering very badly from a huge shortage of power for its industries, and its economy is in a nose dive. But that has many reasons, and two more nuclear reactors of 650 mw each is not going to help much. Both the Chinese and Pakistani officials from very high levels have repeatedly emphasized that the transfer of two nuclear reactors to Pakistan is legal. China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China’s nuclear co-operation with Pakistan is peaceful and follows international safeguards, that is, under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Pakistani officials describe this deal, signed in Shanghai on June 8, as part of the long co-operation between the two countries for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Chinese decision to supply Pakistan these two reactors is not a commercial one, or to give a big boost to Pakistan’s power generation. Pakistan does not have a big enough market for a Chinese export profit. It is a strategic decision to counter India. Chinese officials have recently said the reactor sale decision was justified given the political situation in South Asia and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) exemption to India that cleared the path for the Indo-US nuclear deal. From the time India and the US started negotiating the bilateral deal for peaceful nuclear energy co-operation, China argued for a similar deal for Pakistan. Beijing’s determination to help Pakistan, its “all weather friend and ally” was demonstrated when it stood alone till the last moment to oppose the
-2- NSG exemption for India. It took US President George Bush to call Chinese President Hu Jintao at an unearthly hour to bend and stop their obstruction. The Chinese took President Bush more seriously than they take his successor, Barak Obama. The Chinese leaders have calculated that Obama’s foreign policy does not carry the bite of his predecessor. There are a number of instances to prove the Chinese perception. India and the international community may like to note a radical change in China’s external behavior. Traditionally, China never took a position alone on international issue. But on India’s case in the NSG it demonstrated that it can. In deciding to go against the NSG guidelines to supply two more nuclear reactors to Pakistan, with whatever excuse, Beijing is telling the world that it is powerful enough to ignore international opinion to project its strategic presence outside, incrementally though surely. China joined the NSG, or rather was persuaded to join by the international community and the NSG countries, in 2004. The international community felt that if China became a member of the NSG, the 46th member, it would go by the guidelines of the NSG and stop certain activities related to proliferation of nuclear material. For China, it was an opportunity to wear the venerable attitude of a guardian community. When it joined the NSG, it gave an undertaking that its nuclear co-operation with Pakistan “grandfathered” an earlier agreement to provide one more nuclear reactor to Pakistan. At that time the A.Q. Khan nuclear weapons trade had exploded which also implicated China. The NSG was, therefore, considered by China as a safe haven. The politics of the West, led by the USA, let both China and Pakistan off the hook. Dr. Khan was made a scapegoat under duress. Successive Pakistani governments and the army establishment were the real players and Khan and some of his colleagues in the Pakistani nuclear establishment were the handmaidens.
-3- A.Q. Khan and his co-conspirators in the Pakistani nuclear establishment made that money along with the Pakistani army and the Chinese companies. Beijing pursued its strategic ambition through Pakistan to empower selected Islamic countries with nuclear weapons and missiles to counter the west. Following the September 9, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attack on the USA planned and sponsored by Ossama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network, Washington’s highest priority was to eradicate the roots of terrorism directed against it. They waded into Afghanistan from October 2001 and are still there sinking in the quicksand. The USA needed Pakistan and the Khan network was given a wide berth to enlist Pakistan’s co-operation against terrorism in the region. China, therefore, was excluded from the Khan net-work probe even though it mothered the entire proliferation of nuclear weapons technology, components and blue prints. China joined the NPT in 1992, assuring the world that there will be no nuclear proliferation from its territory and its entities. While it signed the document with one hand, it tore it up into shreds with the other. There is irrefutable evidence that after 1992 Chinese entities continued with proliferation, some of which was admitted by Chinese leaders. When China’s President Jiang Zemin visited India in 1996, he was presented hard evidence by the Indian government about Chinese supply of 5000 ring magnets to Pakistan in 1995. President Jiang accepted the evidence and promised to look into the issue. That was the last India heard of the issue from China. It is a well known secret among the international nuclear affairs community that Pakistan’s Kushab series of plants to produce plutonium has ongoing Chinese assistance. The Kushab-III and IV plants are nearing completion. It is, therefore, not a surprise that international experts have concluded that Pakistan has more than 90 nuclear devices compared to India’s 60 to 70. It also proves Pakistan has been producing more fissile material than India does.
-4- Documented history of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development has been fathered or mothered by China as the extension of China’s nuclear frontline beyond its borders. The next step was to create similar frontline posts involving other Islamic countries. The nuclear material and documents surrendered by Libya to the US revealed clear evidence of Chinese involvement through Pakistan. And this happened after 1992. Chinese front companies have been used to procure material and engineering equipment from Europe to augment Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure including digging silos in mountainsides to store nuclear warheads and bombs. Apart from giving Pakistan a blueprint of its nuclear device, testing Pakistan’s first nuclear device in its test site in lop Nor in 1990, Chinese experts were also present at Pakistan’s Chagai Hills nuclear test site for the nuclear weapons test in 1998. Assistance to Iran’s nuclear establishment has come mainly from China. Tehran has never really intended to procure nuclear power plants from China. They found China’s civilian nuclear expertise of low quality. The agreement signed between the two in 1992 was to score a political point against the US. But it may be different where weapons technology is concerned as no country including Russia would transfer such technology to Iran. North Korea is also involved in Pakistan’s and Iran’s nuclear and missile delivery system. China’s role here is that of a mid-wife, assisting the delivery system. Pakistan’s late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto raised the curtain on this conduit in an interview in her biography. The foregoing is just a brief review of when the China-Pakistan nuclear co-operation began and where it is likely to go. When India received the clearance from the NSG, the entire history of New Delhi’s nuclear proliferation was taken into account. Despite efforts from the anti-India hyenas of USA’s non-proliferation lobby, there was no evidence that the Indian nuclear industry had proliferated outside.
-5- India had little option but to work on a nuclear deterrence system. It was unarmed in a virulent anti-India nuclear neighbourhood – a nuclear China, and a China aided nuclear Pakistan. India has been on the receiving end of both Chinese and Pakistani military aggression. While it is true that China has been instrumental to a great extent in bringing North Korea to the six-party (Japan, South Korea, USA, Russia, China and North Korea) talks to resolve Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons issue, its worked mainly for its own interest. For decades Beijing has kept afloat Pyongyang’s economy lest the country collapses. For China, an imploding North Korea would flood Chinese territory with escaping population. If North Korea reunified with South Korea as it happened between East Germany and West Germany, this could create a pro-West unified Korea. This is not acceptable to Beijing as it would bring US threat to its security on its shoulders. Therefore, China has played the North Korean card very deftly. While the six-party talks have been held in fits and starts, little progress has been made. In the meanwhile, Pyongyang tested two nucler devices and has given notice for a third. Beijing would have liked Pyongyang to remain with nuclear ambiguity. Notwithstanding that, North Korea coming out of the covers can be dealt with by China as the second best bargain. Who helped sophisticate North Korea’s nuclear cycle? The late Benazir Bhutto confirmed that during her 1992 visit to Pyongyang as Pakistan’s Prime Minister she made a deal for Pakistani nuclear enrichment technology in exchange for North Korean missile technology and components. China was the bridge between the two. The China-Pakistan clandestine co-operation in nuclear weapons technology and delivery system, extended to third countries like Libya. No country has proliferated like Chinese and Pakistan, which the NSG members must investigate thoroughly before coming to a decision. The US has put some objection to the China-Pakistan deal. Ten other NSG members have asked China to explain the deal. -6- The NPT was signed in 1968, after China became nuclear. Article IX(3) of the NPT defines a nuclear weapons state as one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1, January 1967. It covered China and excluded potential countries like India which had equal rights, but were excluded permanently. The second anti-India regime came in the form of the NSG grouping after India’s 1974 test. The NSG made no secret that the Indian test made them take the step to deny India technology and material. India had to break through this arbitrary barrier. When Indian nuclear tests of May 11 and 13, 1998, took place, its fission capability was questioned by Indian and foreign scientists, proving that the capability had not fully matured. When Pakistan followed with its own tests both the fission and fusion weapons were reported to be perfect. There is no surprise here. Pakistan already had a ready stockpile of bombs perfected with China’s assistance. Other issues remain on the sidelines which are bound to come up. One, why have international efforts failed to prevent North Korea’s nuclear weapons process? Does the West have a hidden ulterior motive where Iran is concerned? What about Israel’s hidden nuclear weapons capability? Why is Tel Aviv not being subjected to scrutiny which some others are subjected to? A Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (EMCT) is on the cards. India is in favour of this treaty, but on the conditions that each country declared verifiably their entire stock pile, Pakistan is opposed to the treaty, and would not like to declare its existing stockpile. How are these issues to be addressed because any serious move against proliferation depends on full accountability. The bottom line, however, is China’s decision. If it ignores the NSG and goes ahead with its commitment to Pakistan, then these regimes are not worth the paper they are written on. This would lead to a nuclear proliferation mayhem.
-7- A lot of work has to be done by the big powers. But they will succeed only if they deal with non-proliferation issue without other strategic interests. Proliferation was encouraged precisely by such linkage by the US and the West in the first place.
(The writer, Mr Bhaskar Roy, is an eminent analst based in New Delhi.Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)