China and the World

Power grab

China irks the US in Pakistan

Power grab

Next stop Karachi

China is replacing the United States as the pre-eminent power in Asia. At least, that’s the conclusion drawn recently by Dilip Hiro, political analyst and author of 30 books, who was born in what is today’s Pakistan. For further confirmation, China looks set to sell two more nuclear reactors to Pakistan. And there’s little either the US or India can do about it.

The state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation announced last week that it was in discussions with Pakistani officials to build two new nuclear power plants (including a one gigawatt facility).

The US is likely to argue to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (of which China is a member) that the deal breaches regulations. Chinese diplomats will be reminding their fellow members that the US arm-twisted the body into approving a similar deal with India two years ago.

So never mind that Pakistan isn’t a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or that many have grave concerns about its political stability. Pakistan is in desperate need of electricity generating capacity, and China can deliver it.

The China Daily describes the Sino-Pakistan relationship as an “all-weather friendship”, and a Pakistani official confirmed to the Financial Times that the deal’s financing terms were particularly generous. “Our Chinese brothers have left it to us to decide how much time we need to pay back their money.”

Put bluntly: “New Delhi believes that it is a desire to contain India that brought China and Pakistan together,” explains Bangalore-based journalist Sudha Ramachandran. Bitter feelings have marred the relationship between the Asian giants since a border war in 1962 that went disastrously for India (see WiC72). Indian defence analyst Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam argues that Pakistan has become a buffer state, and China’s North Korea in West Asia. If he’s right, the recent nuclear deal could be seen as the latest move in a Sino-US proxy struggle for influence in Asia.

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