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China - Pakistan Nuclear Deal

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June 27, 2023

Why in news?

China and Pakistan signed an agreement for a 1,200 MW nuclear power plant in the Chashma nuclear complex in Pakistan without seeking necessary waivers from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

What is the nuclear status of Pakistan?

  • Power plants - Pakistan is currently operating 6 China-built nuclear plants.
    • 4 smaller reactors at the Chashma complex
    • 2 at the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP).
  • KANUPP-2 and KANUPP-3 both use 1,100 MW Chinese Hualong One reactors.

KANUPP-3 signed in 2013, became a flagship energy project as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

  • Treaties - Pakistan is neither part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor part of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
  • Status - The energy sector is running deficit and heavily dependent on imported fuel including oil and LNG.
  • Pakistan needs to urgently increase the share of renewables and nuclear energy.
  • Pakistan rolled out the Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy in 2019 to increase the share of renewables to 30% by 2030.
  • Currently, nuclear source account for 12%, and wind and solar account only 3% of the energy mix. (2021-22 Economic Survey)

What is the nuclear deal signed between China and Pakistan?

  • Pakistan is facing a dual energy and economic crisis.
  • Pakistan is on-going negotiations for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Pakistan signed an agreement for the construction of a 1,200 MW nuclear plant at the Chashma nuclear complex.
  • This is the fifth and the biggest reactor at the Chashma nuclear complex (C-5).
  • China had given ‘special concessions’ for financing the construction of the reactor.

Why has China not sought waivers from the Nuclear Suppliers Group?

  • NSG - Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a 48-member grouping that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • NSG explicitly prohibits the transfer of nuclear technology by its members to countries that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • Ambit and Gambit - China joined NSG in 2004.
  • Thus China’s civilian nuclear projects with Pakistan comes under scrutiny of NSG.
  • The new deal signed between China and Pakistan for C-5 power plant did not seek NSG.
  • China argued that the Chashma 3 and Chashma 4 reactors were ‘grandfathered’ under its earlier Chashma deals with Pakistan that pre-dated its joining of the NSG.
  • China now justifying the continuing nuclear commerce for C-5 by pointing to the India-U.S. nuclear deal.

How does the India-U.S. nuclear deal differ from the China-Pakistan deal?

  • Waiver - India and the U.S. sought a waiver from the NSG for their civilian nuclear deal, which was granted in 2008.
  • Commitments - India undertook a number of international commitments such as
    • Placing facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
    • Separating civilian and military nuclear programmes.
    • Continued moratorium on testing.
  • Neither has China sought any such waiver from the NSG nor has Pakistan undertaken similar commitments.

How will the deal impact the governance of nuclear commerce?

  • China is blocking the long-running negotiations to include India as a full-fledged NSG member.
  • China argued the C-4 and C-5 deals agreed in 2013 as being part of earlier agreements, the KANUPP-2&3.
  • The new deals further eroded the global rules governing nuclear commerce.
  • It has also raised questions about the relevance and future of the NSG and governance of global nuclear commerce.

References

  1. The Hindu - Does the China-Pakistan nuclear deal flout global rules?
  2. World Nuclear Association - Nuclear Power in Pakistan
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