South Asia and Beyond

The Chinese Nuclear Game

Last month, Pakistan synchronised reactor 2 of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant with the electricity grid. It marked a key development in its drive for lessening dependence on fossil fuels but everything connected with this plant is illegal.

The plant is a Chinese project, a home designed Hualong 1 or HPR1000 reactor, and Beijing hopes that once up and running in Pakistan, it could open the doors to sales in other countries. But as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, China has no business selling nuclear reactors to Pakistan which does not accept full scope safeguards. It suits China, which sees itself as a rival to the U.S.-dominated global proliferation order, to upend it. The deal with Pakistan is also China’s way of telling the U.S. it will ensure Pakistan gets benefits similar to what the nuclear deal did to India.

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The problem here is China’s blatant disregard for proliferation norms, which are not challenged by the rest of the world. The U.S. in particular has said and done nothing to stop China’s flouting of the rules of the nuclear game. The question is whether China intends to float a new nuclear order with itself at the top.