It’s clear now that unless there are any dramatic new developments, China will follow through with its plan to export two power reactors to Pakistan. Further confirmation of this is set to come when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari travels this week to Muslim-dominated Ning Xia to watch joint Sino-Pak counter-terrorism military exercises with the Chinese leadership.
Zardari will get a unique opportunity to push the deal with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao when he visits the country from July 6. The United States has said the deal needs the approval of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, but China insists it’s grandfathering it from one signed with Pakistan before it joined the NSG in 2004.
China has been pressing Pakistan to act against Uighur separatists and the nuclear deal is meant to offer a further incentive to Pakistan. What may also work to Pakistan’s advantage is that the deal has become a point of pride for China, which doesn’t want to be seen to be backing down under the pressure of another great power.
India has very limited options for scuttling the deal now. It’s not an NSG member (although it wants to be one), and so far, it has tried but failed in its efforts with the US and like-minded NSG countries to put a roadblock on the deal.
It seems China’s growing economic and political clout is proving hard and harder to counter.