http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/709 Guns and bombs from China Fri, 2006-06-23 02:49 By Tukoji R Pandit - Syndicate Features It is hardly surprising that the London-based Amnesty International has reported that China has become the ‘most secretive and irresponsible’ exporter of arms which help fuel conflicts in many parts of the world. Sudan, Nepal and Myanmar are among the countries that have received the ‘secret’ consignment of arms from Beijing. In each of these countries the autocratic governments are (or till recently were, in the case of Nepal) suppressing the people’s resistance to stay in power. The clandestine arms trade of China has been in existence for long and in full knowledge of countries such as the US. Despite some ‘sanctions’, which did not have any punitive effect, Beijing was never under any pressure to introduce transparency in its one billion dollar arms export, much less curb it. The Amnesty lament has, therefore, come too late to in the day. Officially, the China’s stand is that it observes certain ‘safeguards’ to prevent sales of ‘unethical’ arms. China also says it is both ‘cautious’ and ‘responsible’ in its ‘dealings’. The reality is quite different. US and others critics know the ‘falsehood’. So, the question is how serious are the Western powers in trying to stop China from continuing with its not so secret arms export trade. China uses its arms export to win friends and to influence them, especially when some of these states have no other source of procuring arms. In recent days, for instance, Nepal was denied arms by its three principal suppliers—India, the US and the UK. China moved in to fill this ‘vacuum’ to earn the gratitude of King Gyanendra. Bad luck to him and to his patron suppliers that he since been virtually stripped of most of his powers. Quite often China buys raw materials from countries where it exports arms and the barter system seems to keep both parties happy. The surreptitious sale of Chinese arms becomes easier because China has not signed up with any multilateral agency to ban sale of its arms to undemocratic regimes. China does not support international initiatives for an arms trade treaty. The Amnesty report says that China supplied 200 military trucks to Sudan and weapons to Myanmar while Nepal was sent consignments of rifles and grenades. Sudan faces a severe internal strife that shows no signs of abating. The military junta in Myanmar has turned down all pleas from the international community to introduce democracy. Nepal was lucky as the people’s movement there finally brought a repressive monarch down on his knees. The Chinese weapons did not help him much. Chinese weapons did help another country in India’s neighbourhood a great deal. The recipient, no guess needed, is Pakistan. Their ‘strategic’ relationship goes back to the 1960s. Since the 1980s this relationship has deepened with China selling or transferring missiles and nuclear technology to Pakistan. Pakistan owes its nuclear status to theft (by AQ Khan when he was working in a Dutch laboratory) and clandestine transfers of both equipment and technology from many sources, including China. As far back as 1983, US intelligence agencies had reported that China had transferred a complete nuclear weapon design to Pakistan, along with weapons grade uranium. China had also helped Pakistan operate its Kahuta uranium enrichment plant. The export of Chinese missiles to Pakistan and assistance in the latter’s nuclear weapons programme is said to have aroused concern in Washington. But it is not clear how serious that ‘concern’ was. The Pakistani nuclear programme is basically designed to pose a threat to India, not to bolster domestic energy supplies. The Chinese nuclear cooperation is said to be a ‘contentious’ issue in relations between Washington and Beijing. Yet, China has no problem transferring the complete M-11 missile system to Pakistan, offer nuclear technology and manufacturing assistance to Pakistan. Their equation is such that it doesn’t prevent Pakistan from transferring some of the Chinese largesse to third countries. It is clear, for instance, that Pakistan used the know-how it received from China to help Iran lay the foundation of its nuclear programme, which the world thinks is oriented towards generating nuclear energy besides nuclear weapons. China does not adhere to missile technology control regime guidelines either. It interprets in its own way global regimes on non-proliferation to justify its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. Words do not always mean much in Chinese diplomacy. In 1991 as well as 1994, China had given a ‘pledge’ that it will not transfer nuclear technology to Pakistan, but saw nothing wrong in giving it a go-by in its own way. Of course, China helps Pakistan because it wants Islamabad to become militarily as strong as India. India has every reason to look at any nuclear ‘cooperation’ between China and Pakistan with suspicion. The Americans prefer to look the other way on nuclear and other sophisticated arms transfer from China to Pakistan because despite all the new found love and affection between New Delhi and Washington, the strong contingent of India-baiters in the US establishment is chary of India becoming a major power. Pakistan President Musharraf is now looking for at least two new nuclear plants from China, ostensibly to increase energy production. Earlier there were reports that Pakistan might be planning to buy many more nuclear plants from China. Musharraf has turned to China after the US administration refused to extend to him the same civilian nuclear cooperation that it has offered to India. There was much fuming and fretting in Pakistan over the ‘discrimination’ and ‘double standards’ shown by the US. But deep in their hearts, the Pakistanis might be happier to do a nuclear deal with China than the US because unlike the US, China asks no questions about the end use of arms sale and nuclear technology it transfers to Pakistan. The US seeks to impose conditions on India before actually allowing access to its civilian nuclear facilities and research. But there will be almost no condition when China offers fresh nuclear cooperation to its old ally and client in South Asia. China will be least concerned if the nuclear technology it transfers to Pakistan is used to make the bomb or manufacture electricity.