China is well on track to firm up the sale of two more nuclear
reactors to Pakistan,raising serious concern in India which has conveyed its objections at both the political and official levels in China,as well as the Nuclear Suppliers Group in the last few months.
The deal in question will constitute the first foreign sale of Chinas indigenous 1,100 MW nuclear reactor series called ACP 1000 which is set to be a major technological advance 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 Chinas own international commitments as a NPT member as well as within the NSG.
Further,sources said,India has made it known to the Chinese side that any deepening of Chinas 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,sources said,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 years 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.
Matters did pick up pace on the Indian side in the following months as New Delhi brought it up in its official-level conversation with the US ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs visit to Washington and then took it up at back-to-back meetings with China.
Even as preparations are afoot for the PMs visit to China later this month,expectations from Beijing on this issue remain minimal. The Chinese argument,sources said,continue to hover around the point that all this cooperation falls within the Sino-Pak nuclear cooperation agreement which precedes Chinese accession to the NSG.
Despite the fact that this position has been fiercely contested within the NSG,the Chinese side successfully went ahead with its commitment on building two more reactors at Chashma. To avoid being caught up in a debate with the NSG,the Chinese side circulated the notification of this sale at the International Atomic Energy Agency,surprising all member states as that has never been the convention.
The key problem with Chinas growing nuclear cooperation with Pakistan is that the NSG guidelines make it mandatory for supplier nations to sell nuclear fuel and technology to only those countries which have their entire programme under IAEA safeguards except for five declared nuclear weapons power. The only exception that the NSG has granted is to India under the 2008 nuclear deal.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty makes it mandatory for all its members,barring the five nuclear weapon states,to ensure their full programme is under IAEA safeguards. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and as a non-NPT country does not follow the norm of full-scope safeguards. But China has always sought to take refuge under the grandfathering clause in the NSG guidelines that provides a window to deals finalised by member states before they became part of the NSG.