A Chinese scholar, welcoming the Pak-China nuclear cooperation said it would help mitigate Pakistan’s energy shortage besides deepening bilateral strategic partnership between the two countries. Defending strongly the civil nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and China, the executive director of the Pakistan Study Center at Sichuan University, Chen Jidong, in daily Global Times writes that in late December China has committed to extend a loan of $6.5 billion for the construction of a major nuclear power project in Karachi, The China National Nuclear Corporation also promised to finance the project with two reactors of 1,100 megawatts capacity each. Each of the two will be larger than the combined power of all operating reactors in Pakistan now, according to Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Ansar Parvez.
He said a number of joint declarations signed by the two countries have shown their plans for civilian nuclear cooperation. By aiding Pakistan through civilian nuclear programs, Chinese nuclear companies can secure more business deals with Pakistan to help Islamabad in meeting the demands for civilian use of nuclear power.
Nonetheless, both the US and India showed concerns that the cooperation between China and Pakistan is aimed at the civilian nuclear deal sealed between the US and India during the George W. Bush administration. They also expressed worries over Pakistan’s history of nuclear proliferation.
These concerns are nothing but obstruction in nuclear cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad. If people worry such cooperation may turn to military uses, then the cooperation between the US and India should also generate the same concerns, he argued.
As far as selling nuclear technology to other countries is concerned, the international community has acknowledged that it was the conduct of an individual Pakistani rather than that of the Pakistani government, he said.
The government still has the right to the peaceful civilian use of nuclear power. Currently, the military and civilian nuclear programs in Pakistan are under strict control and are safe, or else China would not have cooperated with it.
The Taliban do pose a threat to the country’s security, but they are far from acquiring the capability to take over Pakistan’s nuclear assets, the scholar said.
He said that US does not have a favorable relationship with the Muslim world. For the past decade, the US has been involved in conflicts with Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and most recently with Syria.
Therefore, the US-led West worries that in case any nuclear materials fall into the hands of the terrorists, it will be exposed to danger. But this is only an excuse that the West makes up so as to intervene or even control the use of nuclear power in Pakistan, the only Muslim country to have nuclear weapons.
In developing civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, China has in fact downplayed these Western concerns and taken into the consideration the whole picture of South Asia.
One complexity of the situation in South Asia is that the two major countries, India and Pakistan, do not share friendly relations. So when India expresses its concerns over Pakistan’s civilian nuclear cooperation with China, China understands it and responds to its inquiries, saying the cooperation was for peaceful purposes and subject to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
China and India have also talked about potential for bilateral cooperation on civilian nuclear usage for several years, although the discussions have always been stuck at the initial stage. Some factors determine the process, such as mutual trust between China and India, but at least so far, China’s diplomatic gestures show it is willing to make efforts toward this goal.
China takes a balanced and pragmatic approach when developing ties with both Pakistan and India, said Chen Jidong.