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Pak-China Nuclear Energy cooperation and international obligations

Pak-China Nuclear Energy cooperation and international obligations

By Saadat Bilal, Weekly Pulse Magazine, November 04, 2013

A new debate has started in the circles of international non –proliferation regime after the signing of Pak-China civilian nuclear cooperation deal. The current deal would mark the first foreign sale of this type of indigenous Chinese reactor, which has a 1,100 megawatt capacity. The two reactors are stated to be constructed near Karachi and expected to cost around $9.6 billion. The China National Nuclear Corporation signed contracts with subcontractors in August to build the plant on a turnkey basis. Beijing will reportedly provide 80 percent of the financing through a soft loan.

Pakistan already has three operating nuclear power plants. One is located near Karachi and two others are located at the Chashma site in Punjab. China is in the process of building two additional 350-megawatt reactors at the Chashma location (Chashma-III and Chashma-IV) that are scheduled to come on line by 2016.Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal now exceeds 100 warheads. Its military doctrine has recently added short-range, tactical nuclear weapons as a way to counter India’s conventional military advantages. Pakistan’s ambitious nuclear goals are raising concern about an accelerated nuclear arms race in the region, which has already seen two major military crises in the last 15 years.

The Chinese likely feel emboldened to move ahead with further sales of nuclear reactors to Pakistan since the Obama Administration has taken a generally low-key approach in the past to such deals. In 2010, for example, when the Chinese indicated their intention to move forward with the Chashma-III and Chashma-IV projects, a senior State Department official said the U.S. was merely “studying” the proposal. At that time, U.S. officials appeared to hope that their acquiescence would placate both China and Pakistan over the U.S.–India civil nuclear deal.

In fact, a front-page story in The Washington Post last month highlighted the U.S. intelligence community’s concern about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The article noted that the realization that Osama bin Laden resided for six years within a half-mile of the Pakistan military’s premiere defense academy had increased fear within the U.S. intelligence and policymaking community that al-Qaeda could eventually gain access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

In light of these realities, the U.S. should:

  • Convince China to halt further civil nuclear sales to Pakistan until the NSG develops consensus on the matter. As part of the effort to forge NSG consensus on the issue, and in light of Pakistan’s history of proliferating nuclear technology to other countries, the NSG should insist on Pakistan cracking down on extremist groups and punishing those who have proliferated weapons technology in the past, namely Dr. A. Q. Khan.
  • Offer other types of energy cooperation to Pakistan. Pakistan has enormous energy needs and argues that the increase in capacity for civil nuclear energy will help meet growing demand. At present, about 3.6 percent of the total electricity generated in Pakistan comes from nuclear power. The World Bank has committed $700 million to the $6 billion Dasu hydroelectric power project in Pakistan, while Islamabad and Washington recently finalized a plan to cooperate on a major hydroelectric project in Pakistani Kashmir. These projects will help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis without raising concerns about unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. The U.S. should focus on these types of energy projects and steer Pakistan away from the civil nuclear option.
  • Push for nuclear stability talks between India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s drive to increase its nuclear weapons arsenal and efforts to include tactical nuclear weapons into its military doctrine are fueling tensions in South Asia and raising the risk that a potential future conflict between India and Pakistan could involve a nuclear exchange. The U.S. should coax both sides into focusing official dialogue on issues related to strategic stability and the safety and security of their respective nuclear arsenals.

China and Pakistan in principle were engaged in civilian energy cooperation in recent years. Recent reports said that two big reactors would be built in Karachi by China, with construction beginning as early as next month. However, China March this year indirectly confirmed reports of signing an agreement with Pakistan to build two 1000-megawatt plants amid allegations that the deal violated the NSG norms. Both China and Pakistan have denied that the deal violates NSG norms, saying that it is for peaceful purposes and within the safeguards of nuclear watchdog IAEA.

India said that China plans to build two 1,000 MW nuclear reactors in Pakistan which is a “matter of concern” and the issue is to be discussed during Prime Minister Manmohan’s Beijing visit. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, addressing reporters ahead of the prime minister’s back-to-back visits to Moscow and Beijing from Sunday, said China’s plans to build the reactors in Karachi “are a matter of concern for India”.

The deal in question will constitute the first foreign sale of China’s indigenous 1,100 MW nuclear reactor series called ACP 1000 which is set to be a major technological advancement for Beijing.The project, which is to be located off Karachi (KANNUP 2 and 3), is valued at about $9.6 billion. Although there has been talk of this in the past year, concern levels rose in new Delhi after reports that the China National Nuclear Corporation Ltd had signed some initial commercial contracts with Pakistani authorities.

It is reliably learnt that India raised the matter with China in the last few months at high-level official meetings and even escalated it to a political level, pointing out to the incongruity of this prospective sale with China’s own international commitments as a NPT member as well as within the NSG. India also has made it known to the Chinese side that any deepening of China’s nuclear cooperation with Pakistan has security implications for India given that Islamabad is not committed to separate its civilian programme from the military.Before taking it up with Beijing, New Delhi first red flagged the issue to its NSG interlocutors last year when nascent signs of such a conversation between China and Pakistan first emerged. However, it was only at this year’s NSG at Prague on June 13-14 that some of the members are learnt to have raised objections to China proceeding with another project with Pakistan.

The assistance and cooperation between China and Pakistan may have increased since India signed a nuclear deal with United States because it set a precedent for cooperation in the nuclear commerce between a signatory and non –signatory of international non –proliferation regime. The deep involvement of US with India’s nuclear program contributed to Pakistani government’s decision to convince the Chinese administration for more cooperation in the production of nuclear energy as Pakistan is facing the energy crisis now a days.

Amidst concern in India and the United States over a Chinese plan to build two 1000-MW nuclear reactors in Karachi, China defended its civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, saying it is under “strict” international norms.“Relevant cooperation is in strict accordance with the two countries’ international responsibility and is for peaceful aim. We also receive the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency,” spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry, HuaChunying, said. Both India and the US conveyed their objections to China’s move, saying that it violated the strict norms set by the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.China says that its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan is limited to peaceful purposes and falls within international safeguards as determined by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Pakistan’s severe economic crisis has been intensified by its massive electricity power shortage of 4000-5000,which has crippled the industrial sector. Textile industry is shattered due to shortage of electric power supply.It is believed that Pakistan and China agreed in principle to enhance and strengthen nuclear cooperation. Some analysts believe that China was emboldened to go ahead with the deal after the US signed a similar deal with India. Actually India was made an exceptional case for signing the Indo-US nuclear deal, which has actually shattered the global non-proliferation regimes as it has opened the doors for such deals in future. It was obvious that one deal like Indo-US nuclear deal can destroy whatever steps have been taken to counter the international nuclear proliferation. It set a precedent for China to openly undertake commerce in nuclear technology with Pakistan, which believes that this civilian nuclear technology is important to overcome the energy shortage. Pakistan and China have time and again said that their nuclear cooperation is under the safeguards of the IAEA and there should be no concerns about it.

Commenting on the recent statements and apprehensions of United States on the Pak-China nuclear cooperation, Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit in his weekly briefing said, “Pakistan’s civil nuclear cooperation is going on for years and it is under the IAEA safeguards only for peaceful purpose.”He said China has also issued statement in this regard that the cooperation between Pakistan and China in the area of civilian use of nuclear energy is “totally for peaceful purpose”. The spokesman said China has also clarified that this cooperation between two countries is in accordance with the respected international obligations.

To conclude,Pakistan has mastered in so many technical fields of nuclear technology while ensuring the safety and security of its nuclear weapons. However, Pakistan’s energy requirements compelled it to convince Chinese for civilian nuclear technology. Indo-US concerns are based on laws that banish the commerce between a signatory and non – signatory of NPT or between a member and non –member of NSG. However it would have been better for India and US to consider these arguments when they were finalizing Indo-US nuclear deal that set precedent by itself. Therefore, they have no legal or moral grounds to object nuclear cooperation which is now twenty four years old and totally consistent with international safeguards. Moreover,it has nothing to do with the concerns of India and US as it has legal cover of IAEA safeguards and that is meant to overcome the energy crisis by producing the nuclear energy.

About Taimoor

Taimoor is the Digital Content Lead at www.RightJobs.pk . He has been working at prominent media outlets for several years. He blogs at several websites about current affairs, religion, careers and other walks of life.

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