N-deal with Pak could hit ties, India cautions China

As Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani steps up pressure on the Chinese leadership to formalise a nuclear deal similar to the Indo-US civil nuclear initiative, the UPA government has cautioned Beijing about the negative fall-out of such a move on Sino-Indian relations.

Such a move, which could be announced this week during Gen Kayani's visit to China or held back for a later date, is bound to set back the current efforts by Delhi and Beijing to normalise bilateral relations.

In the last few weeks, there has been a steady stream of reports that China is about to clinch a new deal to sell two nuclear power reactors to Pakistan in violation of the current rules of international nuclear commerce.

While it deliberately chose to avoid a public spat with China on its proposed expansion of nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, Delhi has left Beijing in no doubt about its strong reservations that were conveyed through diplomatic channels in the last few days.

If Beijing goes ahead with the deal, Delhi cannot but conclude that China has acted after carefully calculating the benefits of intensifying its nuclear engagement with Pakistan and the costs of the Indian reaction — both official and public.

After steady deterioration during 2008-09, Sino-Indian relations have begun to improve since the climate change summit at Copenhagen last December, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Wen Jiabao surprised the world with their coordination.

President Pratibha Patil has concluded last month a visit to China that Delhi declared "successful" and "forward-looking".

If China signals its determination to sustain a nuclear parity between the subcontinental rivals, India might be forced to conclude that its outreach to Beijing has no real effect on China's "all-weather partnership with Pakistan".

For the moment though it is not entirely clear if China is indeed going ahead with the deal that has already been

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