China and Pakistan Renew Atomic Friendship

China and Pakistan Renew Atomic Friendship

Pakistan may not have been able to secure a nuclear deal from Washington, but it seems to have sewn up an agreement for building additional reactors with longtime ally China. Announced late last month, the agreement comes at a time when Pakistan's economy remains moribund, even as its energy requirements continue to rise. While this specific deal is unlikely to make a significant dent on Pakistan's energy deficit anytime soon, it nevertheless serves as a symbol of the durability of the Sino-Pakistani "all-weather friendship" against which Islamabad often judges its relations with Washington.

The two countries will proceed on the bilateral deal, which will supply two more 300 MWe Pressurized Water Reactors to complement the two already in operation at Chashma, without seeking a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Current NSG rules, which came into effect in 1992, prohibit any trade between a member of the group and a country that does not have its nuclear activities under full IAEA safeguards (such as Pakistan) unless specifically cleared by consensus in the NSG. It is precisely such a blanket clearance that India secured in 2008, which has allowed it to re-enter the world of nuclear trade.

China joined the NSG in 2004. But because civil nuclear cooperation for the Chashma site dates back to a 1985 accord, both sides are portraying this latest agreement not as part of a fresh sale, but instead as a continuation of the original grandfathered treaty. As such, it would lay outside the purview of the NSG rules.

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