Nuclear strategy in South Asia
Sher Muhammad Khan
Few times ago, American think-tanks have claimed that Pakistan and China entered into a new understanding in mid-February for the construction of another nuclear reactor in Pakistan, which is their view, would violate Beijing’s commitment to the Nuclear Supplies Group(NSG).
While china has strongly denied this, a few facts about proliferation in South Asia need to be recalled. India’s nuclear test in May of 1974 generated huge concern, prompting Pakistan and regional countries to galvanize world opinion in favor of South Asia being declared a nuclear weapons free zone. Over subsequent years, Pakistan made other proposals aimed at keeping the region – which had already seen more than its share of hurdles and conflicts – safe from this scourge. India, however, chose to ignore these initiatives.
Consequently, Pakistan initiated its own program and succeeded in emulating India when the latter carried out fresh tests in May 1998. And yet, Pakistan did not abandon hopes of managing this scourge, offering to India the Strategic Restraint Regime, containing three interlocking elements of nuclear restraints, conventional balance and dispute settlement. To Pakistan’s regret, this comprehensive proposal has failed to evoke any response from its neighbor. While the merits of Indian policy could be debated, the attitude of many major powers continues to puzzle Pakistanis and others interested in restraining proliferation in South Asia.
India’s huge market for nuclear technology beckons many a reactor manufacture, but surely, governments should take a more measured and responsible view, which is why the Bush Administration’s decision 2005 to offer a civilian nuclear deal to India was so shocking. It ridiculed not only US domestic laws, but called for exemption from provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the NSG that virtually destroyed the very rationale of these global understanding. This has been followed by bilateral agreements by others for supply of nuclear technology to India that calls into question their comment to the concept of non – proliferation, as the US – India deal excluded from safe guars eight Indian reactors suitable for weapons – grade plutonium production.
Notwithstanding, Pakistan’s modest nuclear cooperation with China continues to draw criticism from the US, with Pakistan being accused of engaging in nuclear proliferation and Chine of violating its commitments to the NSG. Yet, it is well known that Pakistan and China signed a 30-year civil nuclear cooperation agreement in September 1986. Subsequently, additional agreements were entered into prior to China joining the NSG in 2004, under whose provisions it has been engaged in building nuclear reactors in Pakistan.
Pakistan is convinced that if NPT signatory states, such as France, Russia, the UK, Japan and the US, can offer nuclear technology to India, a non – NPT signatory state, the US and its allies have little moral standing to suggest that Pakistan and China refrain from similar cooperation.