Beijing: In an unusual move, China's state media on Tuesday defended Pakistan's nuclear record, saying it was AQ Khan who was responsible for atomic proliferation which was not backed by the government and argued that any exemption to India for NSG entry should also be given to Pakistan.
"While India strives for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) inclusion, it prevents Pakistan from joining by insisting on the latter's bad record of nuclear proliferation. Actually, the proliferation carried out by Pakistan was done by Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's chief nuclear scientist, and was not an official policy of the Pakistani government," an article in the state-run Global Times said.
"Khan was punished by the government afterwards with several years of house arrest. If the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the NSG can give India an exemption, it should apply to Pakistan as well," it said.
This is probably the first time Chinese official media has directly made a case for Pakistan's inclusion in the NSG. China officially maintains that there should be consensus about admitting all members.
"China and other countries are opposed to NSG including India while excluding Pakistan, because it means solving India's problem but creating another bigger problem. If India joins hands with Pakistan to seek NSG membership, it seems more pragmatic than joining alone," said the article titled 'China no barrier to India joining NSG'.
India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998, which were condemned by the international community, and the US, the EU and Japan all imposed harsh sanctions on the two countries. After the September 11 attacks, the sanctions were gradually lifted. The US even signed with India a Civil Nuclear Agreement and backs India's bid to join NSG. But the issue of the legitimacy of India's "nuclear status" has not been solved, it said.
"If India and Pakistan are allowed to join the NPT and adopt the CTBT, it will tarnish the authority of both. How can nuclear weapons development in other countries such as North Korea, Iran and Israel be dealt with," the article said.
The article put the blame of proliferation from Pakistan squarely on nuclear scientist Khan.
Khan was disgraced in 2004 when he was forced to accept responsibility for nuclear technology proliferation and was made to live a life of official house arrest. In 2009, the Islamabad High Court declared Khan to be a free citizen of Pakistan, allowing him free movement inside the country.
The article came as the NSG began its meeting in Seoul, even as the Chinese foreign ministry said India's admission is not on the agenda.
The NSG remains divided over non-NPT countries like India becoming its members, China's Foreign Ministry had said yesterday less than 24 hours after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had exuded hope that "we would be able to convince China to support our entry to the NSG."