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Category Archives: China-Pakistan

Pakistan tests nuclear-capable missile with range of 2,750 km

Hindustan Times | HT Correspondent, New Delhi | December 11, 2015


Pakistan on Friday conducted a test of the nuclear-capable Shaheen-III surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 2,750 km. (Pic courtesy: @RadioPakistan )

Pakistan on Friday conducted a test of the nuclear-capable Shaheen-III surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 2,750 km, capable of striking targets deep inside India.

The test, conducted from an undisclosed location, was described as successful by the military’s media arm. It was aimed at “validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system”, an official statement said.

The missile’s impact point was in the Arabian Sea and the test validated “all the desired parameters”, the statement said.

Lt Gen Mazhar Jamil, the director general of the Strategic Plans Division that manages Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, said after the test that “Pakistan desires peaceful co-existence in the region for which nuclear deterrence would further strengthen strategic stability in South Asia”.

He said the test was a “significant milestone in complementing the deterrence capability” of Pakistan.

Jamil further said he had “full confidence” in the Strategic Command and Control System and the “Strategic Forces’ operational preparedness to defend against any aggressive design”.

Pakistan has developed a wide range of nuclear-capable missiles, most of them with help from China, that are India-centric. Experts believe Pakistan has one of the fastest growing nuclear arsenals.

The Iran Deal and South Asia

Lobe Log | Fatemeh Aman | August 12th, 2015

Sierra Exif JPEG

The agreement between Iran and world powers may be making Iran’s Arab neighbors nervous, but for South Asian countries with energy worries, it has come as a relief. The lifting of sanctions on Iran could mean economic growth, improved security, and increased cooperation region-wide. It could be a transforming factor in a region with deep-seated political, economic, and environmental problems.

In recent decades, various foreign sanctions on Iran have pushed it closer to key South Asian countries: India, which is Iran’s powerful economic partner; Pakistan, whose volatile Balochistan region borders Iran; and Afghanistan, in which Iran has invested heavily and helped reconstruct. At times, Iran has even aided Afghan insurgents in their fight against Tehran’s foe, the United States.

Despite close Iran-Afghan relations, many differences exist. One major source of dispute concerns the Helmand (Hirmand in Farsi) river basin. Afghanistan has a 1973 water treaty with Iran over the Hirmand River but frequent drought and lack of rainfall has exacerbated disputes over Hirmand’s share of water. Iranians have in the past blamed the United States for preventing Afghanistan from abiding by the 1973 agreement.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in his April 2015 visit to Iran pointed out the need to form a team of experts from both countries to build a plan for the “urgent measures that both countries need to take to prevent further destruction of Hamoon wetland.” He said that Afghanistan has been heavily affected by climate change, so “it’s ready to cooperate on reviving wetlands and preserving the environment.”

Afghans have expressed optimism about the prospect of the nuclear agreement and what they view as the positive impact it will have on Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, said the deal will expand economic development, which in turn will improve security.

Reviving Stalled Projects

In May 2015, India and Iran signed an $85 million deal for India to lease two existing berths at the port of Chabahar in southeast Iran and use them as multi-purpose cargo terminals. The two countries agreed to develop Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman in 2003, but the project didn’t move forward due to the sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. Now that sanctions are about to be lifted, Iran finds itself in a “golden time” with India.

Only a few days before the historic nuclear deal between Iran and the West was signed, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani asked India to assume a bigger role in his country and invest in infrastructure projects worth $8 billion. This is while—according to Siavash Rezvani, director general of Sistan-Balochistan province’s Ports and Maritime Organization—Indian investors are on their way to Chabahar. India’s Chabahar project is geopolitically very important since it can link the Middle East, Asia, Central Asia, and Afghanistan. It has the potential to create a new dynamic that can transform South Asia. As a landlocked country, Afghanistan stands to benefit the most from new links to the Middle East and Europe.

Both Iran and Pakistan are hoping that the long-delayed so-called Peace Pipeline project can now be revived, after numerous delays due to sanctions. The pipeline originates in the South Pars gas field in Iran’s southern city of Asalouyeh and reaches the Pakistani cities of Gwadar and Nawabshah. The 900-kilometer share of the pipeline on Iranian soil has been completed and is waiting for the 700-kilometer Pakistani side of the pipeline to be built. An Iranian delegation recently traveled to Pakistan to discuss completion of the pipeline and express hopes that the lifting of sanctions will encourage Pakistan to meet its commitments to address its energy needs.

Another pipeline, once completed, would bring Afghanistan lucrative transit fees. The $7.5 billion project known as TAPI is a 1,700-kilometer natural gas pipeline that brings natural gas from Turkmenistan, home of the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas, through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. The project has to overcome many hurdles, including funds and security, since it is meant to wind through 735 kilometers of southern and western Afghanistan and Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his July 2015 trip to Turkmenistan called the TAPI project a “key pillar” of economic engagement between India and Turkmenistan. Modi, however, also pointed to a land-sea route through Iran that’s being considered.

Gwadar Project

India is eager to get involved in the Chabahar project, which was also delayed by sanctions. The $46 billion Pakistan-China Gwadar project may have been a driving factor for India to complete Chabahar project. Even though the volume of the Chabahar project is currently a fraction of Gwadar ($85 million), it has the potential to become a multi-billion-dollar deal. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will connect Gwadar to the rest of Pakistan, including the most unstable provinces, and would involve major infrastructure work.

Developing the Gwadar project would serve the entire South Asia region. Most importantly, the project is expected to improve the security situation of the region. Improving the security of Pakistan’s Balochistan will directly benefit Iran, Afghanistan, and India.

Security and political stability are critically important for such an expensive and strategic project. The historic nuclear accord is expected to align perfectly with the interests of South Asian countries and, consequently, enhance cooperation. The economic consequences of the deal can help Afghanistan become a corridor to link Asia and Europe.

Although India is developing the Chabahar project and China is developing the Gwadar project, the two ports will not be in competition. Chabahar will remain important for Persian Gulf countries and Central Asia. Iran’s possible cooperation in Gwadar (since the TAPI pipeline will flow to Gwadar) will expand trade between the two countries.

South Asia is a very complicated and divided region, yet the countries there have vital common interests that outweigh their rivalries. The expansion of Pakistan’s connections with Central Asia does not necessarily threaten India. China has common interests and trade relations with Iran, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. A Chinese delegation is now negotiating with India about filling what is called the trade vacuum. The Gwadar project will benefit all the countries in the region including India. The most important outcome of cooperation will be security improvements in the region.

In a volatile region such as South Asia, economic development is not only about improving people’s lives, it’s also a means of enhancing security. In this regard, the nuclear deal can further increase the security in the region by creating enormous economic opportunities for the countries. Although its future behavior can’t be predicted with any certainty, an Iran that is heavily engaged with the West and its neighbors is more likely to think twice before jeopardizing such opportunities by departing from the terms of the nuclear deal.

China prefers Pakistan over India on NSG membership issue

The Nation (PAK) | July 16, 2015



Dashing hopes that China would support India’s bid to become a member of the nuclear suppliers group (NSG), Chinese President Xi Jinping bracketed India’s aspiration to become a member of the elite group of 48 countries to that of Pakistan’s in his recent meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Ufa.

Members of the NSG deal with the export and re-transfer of nuclear and nuclear-related materials and its members vow a strong commitment to non-proliferation measures.

A joint statement issued during Modi’s visit to China in May had, for the first time, mentioned that Beijing had taken note of India’s NSG aspirations. “The Chinese side took note of India’s aspirations to become a member of the NSG, in a bid to strengthen international non-proliferation efforts,” the joint statement said. This was a welcome change from the known Chinese position on the issue.

However, according to various official accounts, Xi responded in a “non-committed fashion” when Modi broached the issue during their nearly 90-minute-long meeting at Ufa. Xi is said to have told Modi that “Pakistan is also in talks with us”.

Beijing has a fledging nuclear cooperation with Pakistan with the help of the ‘grandfather clause’, which refers to refers to the agreement to construct two nuclear reactors in Pakistan before China joined the NSG in 2004.

Xi’s response indicates that a breakthrough on the issue as hoped by India is unlikely for now. Also, any bracketing with Pakistan in terms of non-proliferation track-records is something New Delhi finds difficult to digest.

An official said that negotiations of this kind usually take time. “The joint statement in May was a breakthrough with regard to the NSG membership issue. This issue needs negotiations that are often protracted.”

At the meeting, Modi appreciated the fact that border incursions have come down by 50% in the past year compared to the year before.  He, however, brought to President Xi’s notice to an ‘increase’ in incursions in Depsang bulge in Daulat Beg Oldi sector, home to India’s strategically-significant and northernmost military post.

President Xi was also non-committal on the resolution of the issue of China granting stapled visas to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh that has enraged New Delhi in the past, saying ‘officials are looking at it’.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times

Sino-Pakistan civil nuclear cooperation: A growing challenge to the global nuclear order

The Interpreter | Matthew Cottee | 9 July 2015

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn declared that at least 1200 people had died in Karachi, capital of the worst affected Pakistani state, Sindh, during the recent week-long heatwave. The effects of the abnormally high temperatures have been exacerbated by local infrastructure that has struggled to cope; in particular, power cuts restricted access to air conditioning and refrigeration.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at the construction site of the AP1000 reactor in China, October 2014. (Flickr/IAEA Imagebank.)

Power outages are not new in Pakistan and are ordinarily caused by a shortage of capacity that results in frequent load shedding of power. Occasionally, ‘rebel’ attacks also cause damage to transmission lines.

But the recent climatic conditions have brought fresh criticism. Both the Sharif Government and electricity companies are perceived to have failed to address a widely recognised problem. K-Electric, which provides electricity to Karachi, was the focus of much of this ire, with protesters blaming it for the death toll.

So the announcement of new electricity generation capacity was welcome news for most.

On 19 June the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency granted approval for the construction of new nuclear reactors to continue at Paradise Point, west of Karachi. The project will see two reactors built alongside the existing Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, which is a 137MW Canadian deuterium uranium design from the 1970s. The new reactors, named K-2 and K-3, are of Chinese origin and are expected to contribute a much needed 2200 MW of power output.

Although still years away from completion, this news represents progress from the perspective of energy providers. However, the project remains controversial for a number of reasons.

At the domestic level, legal challenges and public hearings have caused work to be delayed. Civil society groups were concerned about environmental and safety issues, and filed complaints with local courts. The reactors are close to Karachi, a megacity of some 20 million inhabitants, and analysts are worried by the safety implications of prevailing winds and seismic activity in the area. Moreover, should an accident occur, emergency evacuations could prove difficult because of Karachi’s size and geography.

There is also anxiety regarding the technology itself. The K-2 and K-3 are based on the Chinese ACP1000 reactor design (although they are marketed as the export version, the Hualong-1). This indigenous Chinese design passed an International Atomic Energy Agency safety review at the end of 2014, but the technology remains untested. There are concerns that Karachi could be a proving ground for the Hualong-1.

China is constructing its own ACP1000 in Fuqing, Fujian province, but Pakistan is the first importer of the technology. Beijing will be keen to demonstrate the design’s safety and efficiency in order to acquire more foreign orders. Pakistan has been offered generous financial terms by the Chinese suppliers; any risks associated with the maturity of the technology are reportedly being offset by soft loans in the region of US$6.5 billion. The provision of cutting edge technology at reduced cost is appealing for a Pakistani population which suffers frequent blackouts.

However, there are international concerns about the deal.

The transfer of nuclear technology is governed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which stipulates that nuclear exporters are only supposed to provide technology to states that have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Pakistan is not an NPT signatory, although this has not prevented China from going ahead with the deal, as Beijing claims the reactors were part of an agreement predating its NSG membership.

But criticism of China’s stance prompts comparisons with a controversial 2008 arrangement whereby the US received an exemption from NSG guidelines so that it could conduct nuclear technology trade with India. The political capital Washington invested to get other NSG members – including China – to agree to that deal makes the current situation even more complex.

Clearly, Pakistan desperately needs to deal with frequent power shortages. China is providing a welcome solution in the form of its new Hualong-1 reactor technology. But the deal highlights a problem with nuclear governance structures. A voluntary and non-binding set of NSG guidelines has been undermined by Beijing for reasons of self-interest. As China continues its rise and its political clout grows, traditional rules and norms are likely to be challenged. What this means for the future of nuclear governance remains to be seen.

Nuclear-armed rivals India, Pakistan to start process of joining China security bloc

First Post | July 6, 2015

Nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India will start the process of joining a security bloc led by China and Russia at a summit in Russia later this week, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday, the first time the grouping has expanded since it was set up in 2001.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) groups China, Russia and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia are observers.

Representational image.Reuters

“As the influence of the SCO’s development has expanded, more and more countries in the region have brought up joining the SCO,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told a news briefing.”…India and Pakistan’s admission to the SCO will play an important role in the SCO’s development. It will play a constructive role in pushing for the improvement of their bilateral relations.”

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over the divided Muslim-majority region of Kashmir which they both claim in full but rule in part. Pakistan also believes India is supporting separatists in resource-rich Baluchistan province, as well as militants fighting the state.

The SCO was originally formed to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighbouring Afghanistan.

Cheng said that the summit, to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, would also discuss security in Afghanistan.

Beijing says separatist groups in the far western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority, are seeking to form their own state called East Turkestan and have links with militants in Central Asia as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

China says that Uighur militants, operating as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), have also been working with Islamic State.

“It can be said that ETIM certainly has links with the Islamic State, and has participated in relevant terrorist activities. China is paying close attention to this, and will have security cooperation with relevant countries,” Cheng said.


Nuclear futures

The Express Tribune with the Int. NYT | Editorial | June 7, 2015


The debate is once again active as to whether membership of the NSG can be opened to non-signatory states of the NPT.

Pakistan is increasingly power hungry and will become more so as the economy expands, albeit by fits and starts. Power is generated from a basket of sources — hydroelectric, wind, sun, diesel and coal-fired power stations — and nuclear. The first nuclear power station became operational in 1972 and as of 2012, 3.6 per cent of our energy needs were met by nuclear power, as against 62 per cent from fossil fuels and 33 per cent from hydroelectric sources. The long-term plan is to construct 32 nuclear power plants by 2050. Militarily, Pakistan is one of four nuclear armed states that are not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; the others being India, North Korea and Israel. The matter of nuclear power, both civil and military, has again risen to the top of the agenda and there are hard questions to answer and difficult decisions to make.

There is something of a churn going on within our foreign policy orientations, and the game-changer that is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is redefining our relationship with China is much to the fore. Within that context, there could hardly have been much by way of optimism on the Pakistan side when we raised the possibility with the Americans of having access to peaceful nuclear technologies in order to develop our own capacity. This was raised in the context of the Pak-US Strategic Dialogue which was held in Washington.

The US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, were the co-chairs of the 7th round of the US-Pakistan Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation (SSS&NP) Working Group on June 2, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office. As ever, there is little to be gleaned from the official statements that were issued afterwards, which spoke of ‘a productive exchange of views on issues of mutual importance’ and of the need of Pakistan ‘for access to peaceful nuclear technology as a socioeconomic imperative.’ There is no indication that the Americans have responded positively, and the expectation must be that they will not.

Previous applications for support have all been stonewalled, with the Americans citing concerns over the security of our nuclear weapons; a concern which is unfounded not least because it is American consultants, among others, who have provided the security architecture for our nuclear weapons. What may be of more justifiable concern relates to proliferation, and the memory of the AQ Khan fiasco wherein one of our leading atomic scientists shared information with several countries in contravention of non-proliferation protocols. It is of note that America still regards AQ Khan as a proliferation risk. Known unknowns aside, the Americans expressed ‘full confidence’ in our efforts to strengthen nuclear security. Whether we like it or not, the two countries are going to continue to work together — but possibly not as closely as Pakistan is working with China.

The nuclear partnership with China is long-standing. With the 9th Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference now concluded, China has made it clear that although it supports in principle Pakistan gaining access to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that support was going no further than ‘in principle’ unless Pakistan signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The debate is once again active as to whether membership of the NSG can be opened to non-signatory states of the NPT. It is ultimately going to be the members of the NSG to reach internal consensus on the matter and there will be no early decision. China is playing its cards close to its chest but it may be inferred that it is ‘in principle’ and as a member of the NSG not averse to Pakistan’s entry/membership. The Americans are unlikely to take a similar view, and India will cry foul as may Russia. Pakistan has a nuclear future, both civil and military, but has an uphill job convincing some parts of the world that it is a responsible custodian of nuclear technologies.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th,  2015.


China links India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group bid to Pakistan’s

India Today | Ananth Krishnan – Beijing | June 4, 2015


Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (Photo: Reuters)

Three weeks after acknowledging for the first time India’s aspirations to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, China has voiced similar backing to Pakistan’s bid and drawn a clear link between both countries’ efforts to join the influential body that governs global nuclear trade.

In a statement on Wednesday likely to raise eyebrows in India considering what New Delhi sees as the vast differences in proliferation records of India and Pakistan, China indicated that it saw both countries’ aspirations to join the NSG in the same vein.

China had last month in the joint statement following Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit said it “took note of India’s aspirations to become a member of the NSG, in a bid to strengthen international non-proliferation efforts”. That statement was hailed as being significant by Indian officials as marking the first instance of official Chinese recognition of India’s bid.

On Wednesday, asked by Pakistani official media about Pakistan’s wish to join the NSG, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement: “China has noted Pakistan’s aspirations for NSG membership”.

Going further than the backing voiced to India last month, Hua added, “Pakistan has taken steps towards its mainstreaming into the global non-proliferation regime. We support Pakistan’s engagement with the NSG, and hope such efforts could be conducive to the authority and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime. We wish to strengthen communication and coordination with Pakistan.”

Hua did, however, reiterate China’s view that the NSG and the international community needed to deliberate thoroughly the inclusion of countries such as India and Pakistan who have not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) into the body.

“It is the long-standing consensus of the international community that the NPT is the cornerstone of the [international non-proliferation] regime. The recently concluded Ninth NPT Review Conference has reaffirmed this consensus. On account of this, the NSG has so far regarded the status of the NPT state as a crucial standard to accept new member state,” she said.

In a likely reference to India, Hua added, “In fact, besides Pakistan, there are other non NPT states who have expressed similar aspirations. This raises an issue to the international community, that is, whether non NPT states are in the position to join the NSG. China believes that this issue deserves thorough discussion among NSG member states in accordance with relevant rules, thus to make a decision by consensus.”

China was initially strongly opposed to the NSG granting a waiver for India’s civilian nuclear cooperation with the United States to go ahead in 2005.

But while India and the U.S. sought a waiver from the body for cooperation to go ahead, including India adopting a range of commitments, China has gone ahead with supplying nuclear technology to Pakistan while ignoring the NSG’s rules that prohibit the transfer of technology to non-NPT countries without waivers.

In 2009, China signed deals for two reactors, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4, which triggered controversy as the agreements followed China’s joining the NSG. China argued at the time the reactors were “grandfathered” under an earlier agreement between the countries that predated its membership.

However, Beijing has since gone ahead with two new reactors in Karachi, which countries such as the United States and India argue could not be included under a grandfathering argument.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation Thomas Countryman said last month that while the NSG’s members had agreed on grandfather construction plants that had been already initiated by China, there was no agreement that this was “an open-ended clause”.

China’s new projects, he said, were “not consistent” with the rules of the NSG. Beijing, however, has made clear that it will go ahead with projects regardless of the NSG’s concerns, arguing that the deals were civilian projects that were under safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).