China and Pakistan to discuss nuclear weapons on sidelines of nuclear talks

Pakistan and China have agreed to discuss the possibility of a bilateral nuclear weapons agreement during the fourth round of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) talks in Geneva, a senior Pakistani official said Wednesday.

The Chinese and Pakistani diplomats are expected to hold a bilateral meeting on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss a possible bilateral agreement.

The Pakistanis believe that a new nuclear deal could be the last major obstacle in their quest for a nuclear-free world, and it would help cement Pakistan’s credibility in the international community, said Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Syed Shahidullah.

The talks were first held in 2009 in the Chinese capital, Beijing, and the talks have been conducted regularly ever since.

They resumed in 2016.

China and Pakistan are seeking to end decades of mistrust and tensions that have hampered bilateral ties, but they remain at odds over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

Pakistan’s former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has been an outspoken critic of China’s growing military presence in South Asia.

Pakistan has been seeking a nuclear deal with China to curb its own nuclear capabilities.

China says it has concerns about the possible development of nuclear weapons in the region and its own military buildup, but its official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday cited a Chinese Foreign Ministry official as saying that Beijing is “deeply concerned about the nuclear issues in the Indo-Pacific region.”

“The recent nuclear issues have led to a negative impression among the international public,” the official told Xinhua.

Pakistan is a key player in the nuclear talks and has long been keen to see progress made on resolving the dispute over Kashmir, which has split the region between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly called for India to withdraw troops from Kashmir, a move that India considers illegal.