China’s proliferation card

Among the evidence handed over by Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi were Chinese warhead designs passed on by A Q Khan. While the evidence could imply China’s complicity in nuclear proliferation to Libya, Mohan Malik argues that China is unlikely to abandon its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.

Many proliferation-watchers believe that China will not stop playing “the proliferation card,” as it is the most powerful bargaining chip Beijing possesses, leaving “the China shop” open for business to a select few. Given the Pakistani nuclear program’s heavy dependence on external suppliers, a complete shutting down of the Khan nuclear bazaar could lead to the progressive degradation of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent – an outcome that Beijing cannot accept because China’s geostrategic interests require a nuclear-armed Pakistan to pin down India. In other words, having made huge strategic investments in Pakistan over the last four decades, China will not remain a mute spectator to the gradual denuclearization of Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad’s dependence on Beijing for both missiles and nukes will increase, not decrease, if it is to keep up with India. [Jamestown Foundation via Pakistan Facts]

Under China’s “peaceful rise” philosophy, its leaders are making an attempt to reach out to India – much is being made out of their drawing Sikkim within India’s borders – but they are about to jettison their age-old strategies either. But there is a new age reason for China to continue to indulge Pakistan, and that is the growing US presence in Central and South Asia. Beijing is certain to go all out to prevent Pakistan from falling completely under American influence. Hence Gwadar and Chashma II.