Get real

India needs to acknowledge that China's words have never matched its nuclear deeds with Pakistan

That China is poised to supply two additional nuclear reactors to Pakistan in violation of its international commitments, as reported in this newspaper yesterday, should not come as a surprise. What is more predictable, however, is the muted tone of Delhi's protests and its reluctance to fully acknowledge India's enduring nuclear contradictions with China. Beijing's nuclear cooperation with Pakistan began nearly four decades ago and has covered the full spectrum including reactors, the production of nuclear weapons material, the transfer of a nuclear weapon design, and the supply of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads as well the technology to produce them.

China's nuclear approach to Pakistan has not altered despite formal changes in Beijing's non-proliferation policy and its relations with India. When China embarked on nuclear weapon cooperation with Pakistan in the mid-1970s, its relations with India were frosty and Beijing was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Beijing and Delhi now claim to have a strategic partnership. China is a signatory to the NPT and promises to abide by the international guidelines on nuclear commerce that prohibit atomic cooperation with Pakistan.

Yet India appears unwilling to come to terms with the reality and rework its delusionary China policy. After all, Beijing makes no secret of its determination to put India down in the nuclear domain and push Pakistan up. During 2005-08, when India and the US were trying to implement the historic civil nuclear initiative, China sought to undermine the international consensus on lifting nuclear restrictions against India. When it failed, Beijing immediately signalled that it would resume nuclear commerce with Pakistan in violation of international rules. That anti-India policy is now coming to fruition. During his visit to Beijing next week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must do at least two things. One, he should tell the Chinese leaders that India considers their nuclear cooperation with Pakistan to be a hostile act. The PM has no reason to seek redress, because Beijing simply will not comply. Instead, the PM should remind the Chinese that there will be costs in India for what they do with Pakistan. Two, the PM must cut out the usual Indian rhetoric about strategic partnership with China. To be sure, India must pursue expanded economic cooperation with China but the PM must publicly underline the real differences with China. By speaking the truth about Beijing's reluctance to respect Delhi's core interests, the PM will move India's China policy towards a long overdue realism.

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