The civil nuclear cooperation agreement between Pakistan and Chinese companies has attracted wide attention, with some countries even questioning the legality of the deal.
The pact is however a routine development and is a sign of pragmatic cooperation that will in fact be closely supervised by the concerned international authorities.
The strategic cooperative endeavor is not intended at targeting any third party. China has been an important source of assistance to Pakistan in several fields and this cooperation is the result of comprehensive bilateral strategic relations based on mutual trust.
Energy shortage has restricted economic development in Pakistan. Building nuclear power stations is an important solution to this problem.
The first and second stage of construction of the Chashma Nuclear Power Station has already been completed due to this bilateral cooperation initiative.
Civil nuclear cooperation is the fruit of deepening bilateral ties and is not only a win-win choice for both nations but also contributes to the stability and prosperity of South Asia.
Chinese companies' involvement in civil nuclear projects is a routine economic activity. The overall installed capacity of civil nuclear power in Pakistan will increase several-fold in the next decade, turning Pakistan into an important market for international nuclear power service suppliers.
In this context, China National Nuclear Corporation's (CNNC) construction of two new nuclear reactors for Pakistan, which is being closely supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), should be deemed normal entrepreneurial behavior that does not breach China's promise of nuclear non-proliferation as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
In fact, the US has already started talks with Pakistan about civil nuclear cooperation. Due to domestic political compulsions, the nuclear tycoons of the West cannot compete in Pakistan's nuclear reactors market. This should not, however, be made into an excuse to stop other nations' companies from initiating routine nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.
It is illogical to approach the civil nuclear cooperation agreement between China and Pakistan using double standards. To some extent, similar cooperation - between the US and India - has provided China and Pakistan with a practical model.
After signing a nuclear cooperation agreement with the US in 2006, India became free to accept civil nuclear fuel and core technologies from the US - as long as it separated its civil nuclear facilities from military ones - even though the country hadn't signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
The IAEA council agreed to provide supervision guarantees to India after the US and India lobbied widely for the same in 2008. Forty-five members of the NSG reached agreement to lift restrictions on nuclear export to India later in the same year, after which the India-US cooperation entered a crucial stage. The US has reportedly sold nuclear material to India ever since, while Russia is helping India build more than 10 reactors.