China recently announced the discovery of a large uranium deposit in the central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The site has been identified as one of the world's largest uranium deposits.
This is very good news for China, which pursues an elaborate nuclear weapons programme. The country is a major importer of uranium and recently rescinded a ban on building nuclear installations that had come into force after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. Experts believe that by 2015, China could be constructing more than 50 nuclear plants simultaneously.
The country currently pursues both indigenous and foreign designs for reactors and, according to industry watchers at the Stanford Energy Club, intends to evolve ultimately as an exporter of nuclear technology.
The discovery of the uranium mine must have made Pakistan very happy. China has been sharing nuclear know-how with Pakistan for the past five decades and President Asif Ali Zardari has famously said: “No relationship between two sovereign states is as unique and durable as that between Pakistan and China.”
Unique, certainly, because China’s generosity does not seem to be dampened by the international outcry over “father of the Pakistan nuclear bomb” AQ Khan’s reciprocal generosity towards North Korea and Iran, which supplied India’s restive neighbour with nuclear components. Both Pyongyang and Tehran have Khan to thank entirely for both their thriving nuclear weapons programmes and the nuclear espionage network that sustains them.
Not only has China helped Pakistan build two reactors, it also has promised to build two more. And the relationship is no doubt durable because Beijing is Islamabad’s largest defence supplier. While Pakistan has had a “regulatory infrastructure” in place since 1965 when it commissioned its first nuclear research reactor, China still lacks a nuclear safety law – and despite having begun drafting one in 1984. But Pakistan also has a passive president who has suddenly lost his will to combat terrorism as the country’s February general election approaches.
With Beijing’s Big Brothers currently meeting for a once-in-a-decade transition of Chinese leadership, perhaps they will revisit the decision to share nuclear technology with Pakistan. Sometimes, cousins need to be watched more responsibly than siblings, and no one can possibly know this better than the Communist Party of China.