Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Pakistan’s Zardari in China; nuclear deal in grasp

July 7, 2010
(File picture of President Zardari in China)

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is in China this week, making good his promise to visit the “all weather ally” every three months. During his previous trips, his hosts have sent him off to the provinces to see for himself the booming growth there, but this trip may turn out be a lot more productive.

Zardari  may well return with a firm plan by China to build two reactors at Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear plant, as my colleague in Beijing  reports in this article, overriding concern in Washington, New Delhi and other capitals that this undermined global non-proliferation objectives.

It’s a bit of a nuclear poker going on in the region and Afghanistan as the new battleground between the regional players cannot remain untouched.

The proposed Chinese nuclear transfer to Pakistan follows a groundbreaking deal that the United States and India sealed two years ago which allows New Delhi to access U.S. nuclear technology and fuel while retaining the right to pursue a military programme.  It was a deal that raised eyebrows all around, overturning decades of U.S-led efforts to wear down India’s resistance to nuclear disarmament pacts through a combination of tough technology  sanctions and offers of a a strategic relationship designed to appeal to New Delhi’s global aspirations.

In the event, Washington which invaded Iraq on the grounds that it was developing nuclear weapons, and has tightened the squeeze on Iran for its nuclear activities,  virtually gave New Delhi pretty much what it has coveted all along. The right to pursue a weapons programme as well as complete access to international nuclear technology to boost civilian  nuclear power for an energy-starved nation. It was as if the Pope had thrown the Bible away when it came to India, as an Indian diplomat long used to haranguing by U.S. officials over the country’s nuclear programmes told me back then.

But when Pakistan, which arguably has been the spearhead of America’s fight against Islamist militants, asked to be given a similar nuclear status it  was turned down. Washington couldn’t be going around rewarding Pakistan, seen as a  ”serial proliferator”  following revelations that disgraced top scientist A.Q.Khan had run a smuggling network that may have helped North Korea, Iran and Libya.

And so Pakistan turned to China, which may well have its own reason to check the rise of India as a power beyond south Asia.  In pushing ahead with the plan to build reactors at Pakistan’s Chashma plant, the Chinese, several analysts say, are operating on the logic that if the United States can change the rules to accommodate its friend – India – then China too could help out its ally – Pakistan.

Can America stop the Chinese?  Some people think it’s neither in a position financially or otherwise to make  Chinese nuclear assistance to Pakistan a make or break issue.  Europe which feels as strongly about the dangers of proliferation is perhaps equally hamstrung.

But what the deal has done is to re-open the debate about making a special case for India. Several arms control experts are urging individual states such as Australia and Japan which have traditionally taken a tough  stand on proliferation not to engage in nuclear trade with either India or for that matter Pakistan, it came to pass as I wrote in this analysis.

India’s position, though, is also fairly well-stated. If the world’s five  nuclear states  including neighbour China were ready to eliminate their weapons, it would move towards  disarmament itself. What it has refused to do is to submit to a world  of “nuclear haves and have nots”, based on an arbitrary set of rules.


As an Indian I am proud that India has taken a high road and took international communities view point on having nuclear technology. That’s what a responsible state do. Pakistan on other hand has always shied away from any form of responsibility since its inception,that is its main character which no one can change. India has always followed what is good for her and she will continue to do that as a civilization.

Posted by Suhas | Report as abusive

Excellent article. One rule for all, therefore if the India are given nuclear clearance, then the US should not impose its double standards when it comes to giving Pakistan assistance.

Posted by Anees Razzak | Report as abusive

One important point being overlooked by media in all this coverage is the fact that india is the only state which have proliferated nuclear material provided to it for peaceful purposes. In 1974 india conducted a nuclear bomb test called “smiling budha”, this test was conducted using material provided for CIRUS power project by US and canada. India was under soverign contract to not use this material for bomb making. Infact this is precisely what triggered creation of NSG. Allegations on pakistan’ Dr. Qadeer, even on face value, are allegations on a person – actions of india in 1974 were actions of a state. there is a clear difference.

it is still a very dangerous game to support india in a nuclear manner rather then pakistan because of india’s global super power desires, as opposed to pakistan’s regional concerns.

Posted by ash | Report as abusive

This deal will do more damage to both China and Pakistan.

Tomorrow India or US or Japan will sign a similar deal with Taiwan. What would China say?

US was 10-15 years away from giving a India like deal to Pakistan, If they stayed sober that long. With this illegitimate deal with China, Pakistan has once again proved that it wants to live outside the rule book. No country other than China will be in a position to help Pakistan in future. So Pakistan is left to Chinese exploitation. After 3rd and 4th units, how can China help in future?

With this deal, the true nature of China-Pakistan nuke relations, which has been going secretively since 1970s has come to the open.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Is it not bit ridiculous to compare Pakistan with India?

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

Fool’s Paradise to compare China-Pak deal with US-India deal.

US-India deal was in fact world-India deal with IAEA, NSG, and so many other countries involved in the open day light.

China-Pak deal is shady, secretive and subverter, which they even don’t want to speak out loudly. With this deal, Pak has closed its door to the world. Very soon Pak will be relegated to the status of N. Korea or Iran, owner of illegitimate, unauthentic and unwanted deals.

While India-US deal was targeted to curb green-house gases and India has signed deals with IAEA, NSG and 8 other countries, Pak-China deal is targeted towards India. Even N. Korea or Iran will be reluctant to sign a similar deal with Pak, forget about other nuclear powers.

Pakistanis have screwed themselves royally! They can be rest assured that for next 300 years, no other meaningful country will discuss “N-word” with them. But US congress or UN sanctions seem closer. As soon as Afghan war ends, Pakistanis will start hearing music!

Posted by Som | Report as abusive

Hehe, these Indian guys are screwed. Pak made nuke because of Indian threat. While China quickly becomes a world power, India competes with Pak for regional power.

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive

Pak conveys concern to China over substandard rail engines

Not only will China sell substandard nuclear reactors, but also do all nuke-experiments on Pakistani soil (mostly Balochistan), which can’t be done on Chinese soil.

Happy Chernobyls!

Posted by Suyi | Report as abusive

Nitin Pai at The Indian National Interest has an interesting post out on the Chinese nuclear transfers to Pakistan. His argument is that it’s not just security imperatives that are bringing China and Pakistan even closer, but a larger geopolitical game with the United States. It’s a tit-for-tat for the U.S.-India nuclewar deal which Beijing saw a move to check its own power. It has responded by giving reactors away to Pakistan. It hasn’t even bothered to go through the NSG as the U.S. did in India’s case.

“But the tit-for-tat becomes all the more effective when you show that you can break the NSG norms and there’s nothing anyone can do about it—the Obama administration can just lump it. The sanctimonious Europeans, New Zealanders and others won’t even open their mouths.”

Here’s the link :


The Indian media including Indian writers have made out that this deal is in retaliatio to the US-India deal which is a total lie and a fantasy which Indians like to live in. There cannot be a more telling example of nuclear doublespeak than the objections to Pakistan-China cooperation raised by India and a cast of familiar characters in the Western media and think tank community. These ostensible concerns are devoid of either moral or legal basis because Pakistan-China civilian nuclear cooperation is of longstanding and the supply of reactors was ‘grandfathered’ under the agreement dating back to the 1980s that provided for an understanding in 2003 for further long term collaboration. This predates China joining the NSG in 2004. India can wish all it wants that Taiwan is given a nuclear deal but that shall never happen China is a strong state while India just moans and groans to the USA about Pakistan all the time China will soon overpower most nations including U.S.A which is a irresponsible state and soon China will call the shots on nuclear deals and end this little Indian hissy fits and double standards India has no standing on the global stage as China has thats why hardly anyone objected the Chinese deal the indian writer failed to say which countrys strongly rejected this deal very typical and biased Indian article as usual.

Posted by Bilal | Report as abusive

Nobody has a objection to the deal ; China should have got the NSG sanction. This deal will come to haunt both China and Pakistan. China may be denied technology , parts etc .

Posted by Raghbir Dhillon ( Dr) | Report as abusive

Pakistan had the alternative to go for renewable technology to meets its energy requirements. In my opinion it is a mistake for both India and Pakistan to go for n route for the civilian energy. But be it as it is there should be no cocern of India how Pakistan meets its energy requirements.
Pakistan leaders are well advised to loosen its ties with the USA which is a declining power in the world politics.

Posted by rex Minor | Report as abusive

It always amusing when a slight progress by Pakistan cause an itch in Indians. Its very laughable to see their narrow mind. By the cheerleading is also considered an ultimate sport. Let them enjoy even as much as they can, even on a loosing side.

Posted by Khan | Report as abusive

The US turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear bomb technology development because of the need to have Pakistan on its side to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan. Not only that, it blocked all efforts to thwart Pakistan’s secreat purchase of parts and designs for making the bomb. The CIA knew everything, but was under order not to do anything. US State department cleaned out many records that would have landed Pakistanis in American jails for purchasing sensitive material from the US and Canada. A person named Barlow in CIA began to uncover the truth and started alerting his superiors. He was reduced to a non-entity by blocking his evidence and was fired from his job for mental delusions. Greedy industries in Europe exploited the loopholes in the IAEA regulations to sell sensitive High vacuum parts, materials and other technology to Pakistan to make big money. In all, the war in Afghanistan helped Pakistan build its bomb while the US did nothing about it.

It is not that the US is an evil country. They had a giant mission on hand – bringing down the Communist empire. To do that, they had to accommodate Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions.

Now that Pakistan somehow has the bombs and the technology, it would have been better if Pakistan did not sell the technology to North Korea and others to make more money or barter technology. That is an irresponsible act which has brought the world to the brink of terrorists getting their hands to those bombs.

The above reason and the feeling of guilt in the US for cold shouldering India all along, that led to the US-India nuclear co-operation. The US knew all along that India is not an evil nation and has progressed considerably on all fronts and can be trusted to a large extent. Americans know that Pakistan has double crossed them and manipulated them all these years. Hence the refusal to go with Pakistan on its demand for the same thing that India got.

China and Pakistan can do whatever they want. I don’t think that really matters. The damage is already done. Pakistan’s nukes are not meant for showing off in a museum. They made the bomb for a specific reason and they will use it sometime or the other. There are enough fanatical elements in their system that are capable of blind rage and triggering a nuclear avalanche in the sub-continent. And they are only increasing in number.

What the world must focus on now is to remove those dangerous nukes from these mad Islamic countries. They do not feel responsible for others’ lives and treat the world as themselves and others.


@KP Singh
You have now qualified for the status of the ‘infidel’ the non believer. Your words” what the world must focus on now is to remove those dangerous Nukes from these mad Islamic countries. They do not feel responsible for others’ lives and treat the world as themselves and others.
Though most believers including christians and jews would also agree with your second paragraph, is this not what the GoD’s commandments were? Treat others as yourself. But then you are a non believer and would not know this.
you forgot to mention that there were two muslims coming from an Indian city, one of them made the bomb for India and the other one made it for Pakistan. If the Indian Govt. had kept silent then the Pakistan would have done the same. The Americans had nothing to do about it, the project was kept secret and the USA administration was busy elsewhere trying to make life difficult for other people. You also failed to mention that both India and Pakistan have the delivery system to reach any part of the globe. And not to forget the great satan has many systems some of which which were used on Japanese people. After all they had to test the system somewhere.
Your gloomy forecast is also not valid since why should a country use the first nuclear strike against a nuke country if by doing so he is inviting to be eliminated. Let us not make a big issue of the nuclear deals for civilian needs, this is one alternative. I personally prefer the recyclable energy source which is harmless for the enviorament and the people.
Rex Minor

Posted by rex Minor | Report as abusive

Somehow the USA appears to be always in the lime light of any developments around the world. Is it because they have a “grand bouge”? Look east the wise man of today’s says. while I write the German chancelor is in China make joint priograms on high tech. China now has the fastest passsenger trains in the world, the German technology which even the German Govt. found it uneconomical to have it in germany. The USA seems to boast about the slowest passenger train in an industrial country. Have they not done enough to use the taiwan bogey with China? Why should anyone have problems with the peaceful nuclear energy? The Indian politicians should not be jealous of Pakistan peaceful activities. In fact I would recommend that India and Pakistan could also enter into high tech joint projects? Is this not the way to create trust and peace between these two nations, or are they going to keep on bickering about the territory and disregard the people, which is the wealth of the two nations?
Rex Minor

Posted by rex Minor | Report as abusive

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see