China has brushed aside Indian concerns about its cooperation with Pakistan in the field of civilian nuclear energy and it may agree to build more nuclear power reactors on Pakistani soil to help its neighbour overcome the grave energy crisis that has crippled the country’s economy.
The Indian leadership expressed its concern to China during the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India that concluded on Wednesday, diplomatic sources said.
However, they said the Indian authorities had been told by the Chinese leadership that there concerns regarding Pakistan-China civilian nuclear energy cooperation were not valid, as that cooperation was meant only for peaceful purposes to help a friendly nation overcome the severe energy crisis it was confronting.
The Chinese PM reached Islamabad on Wednesday from India and discussed with Pakistani leadership in detail the problem of prolonged power shortages along with other issues of mutual interest, sources said.
“The Chinese leadership is very concerned over Pakistan’s energy crunch and it has assured all possible assistance to Islamabad to overcome this crisis that has paralysed the country’s economy,” a source said while seeking anonymity.
He said China could also give its nod to the building of more nuclear power plants in Pakistan given the serious nature of Islamabad’s energy needs and requirements.
However, he said he was not aware of any specific talks on Wednesday between the Chinese PM and Pakistani leadership on the construction of nuclear power plants.
Beijing has already provided Islamabad with two nuclear reactors, each with a capacity of 300MW at Chashma near Mianwali. According to some media reports, Pakistan and China are also planning to build two more reactors with the same capacity at Chashma.
The reports also speculated about the construction of a fifth nuclear power plant by China in Pakistan, but the sources said Chinese authorities had yet to give their nod to any such project.
They said the Chinese were sympathetic and they understood the gravity of the energy situation that Pakistan was facing, but so far they (Chinese leaders) had not made any decision on the nuclear power plant about which speculations were being made in the media.
India has been opposing cooperation with Pakistan in the field of civilian nuclear energy cooperation not only on part of China, but also the United States, despite the fact that it has clinched such an accord with the US itself.
India claims that China’s supply of nuclear reactors to Pakistan is against the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 46-nation global body that prohibits the sale of nuclear technology to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
New Delhi had to secure the NSG waiver before the conclusion of its civilian nuclear deal with the US, but it opposes any such relaxation for Islamabad.
The sources said China’s reaction to India’s opposition to the nuclear energy cooperation with Pakistan showed the depth of ties between Islamabad and Beijing.
They said that the visit of Chinese PM to Pakistani capital would go a long way in further cementing the bilateral cooperation in various sectors including energy, defence and economy.
“Apart from cooperation in the field of energy, China may also extend the financial support to Pakistan for the next budget,” a source added.