State-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has signed a framework agreement with the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.
Through this agreement, the two nations have pledged to boost their nuclear technology collaboration.
Pakistan and China share close ties with one another. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize People's Republic of China in 1950 and two nations have since expanded their ties to include military and trade cooperation. Today, China is the largest supplier of arms to Pakistan and its third-largest trading partner.
In 2013, China announced an ambitious new project that has the potential to completely transform Pakistan. The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor is a $62 billion project aimed at modernizing Pakistan’s infrastructure and strengthening its economy. Pakistan plays a key role in China’s proposed One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. As Pakistan’s relations with the US becomes more enigmatic, the country has become closer to China.
A friendly equation between China and Pakistan would also seemingly neutralize the challenge of a rising India.
In the recent years, China and Pakistan have committed to bolstering their nuclear collaboration. In 2016, Pakistan inaugurated a $10 billion nuclear plant that was built with the assistance of China. Additionally, Beijing is helping Pakistan construct two nuclear power plants in the southern port city of Karachi at a cost of around $10 billion. They are scheduled to be completed by 2021. As of June 2016, Pakistan had 130 nuclear warheads, which have been a concern for India.
Under the latest agreement the two countries have agreed for continued technical cooperation to explore and develop uranium resources in both nations. China will reportedly use its technological advances and employ its nuclear research institutes and the industry to facilitate the engagement. The nuclear chemical industry and aerial remote sensing centre in China will also coordinate with Pakistan.
CNNC already has exported four 300 MWe reactors to Pakistan. It is also building two 1000 MWe units. It has called Pakistan an “important bridge across the Middle East and South Asia.”
Increased nuclear collaboration between China and Pakistan has caused concern for members of the international community, especially India.
Our assessment is that Pakistan’s relationship with China will be the cornerstone of their foreign policy in the next decade.