The news about the inking of proposed civil nuclear deal between Pakistan and China is undoubtedly viewed as a cause of anxiety and discontentment for a number of states. For India, it is needless to point out their wary concerns over the deal, but the voicing of the initial opposition by the US as expressed in The New York Times and Washington Post was quite unexpected. Fortunately for Pakistan, Beijing has shown its resolve to go ahead with the deal by setting up two 650 megawatts nuclear reactors at Chashma, whilst the US representative at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting recently held in New Zealand did not show much resentment. Given the fact that this issue was not amongst the major agenda items of the said meeting, it now seems that the proposed deal has circumvented the hurdle of the much awaited consent of the NSG. Nonetheless, from a legal standpoint it is vital to have an understanding of international nuclear law regime and the recent precedents in this regard to enable us to figure out whether the proposed Pak-China nuclear deal is legally incompetent or whether the critics of the deal have ulterior motives to oppose it. The most important legal instrument addressing the nuclear renaissance came about with the promulgation of the Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) in 1970 which at present has 189 state parties, including the five declared nuclear weapon states. The intent behind its adoption was clearly expressed in the words, to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament It however also ensures the the inalienable right of all the parties to the Treaty to develop, research, production and use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. NPT does not bind Pakistan or India since they are not parties to the Treaty. China and US on the other hand are obliged to adhere to the Treaty and are therefore under an absolute legal obligation to avert proliferation of nuclear weapons and its technology, but under no legal restriction to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes (emphasis added). Following Indias nuclear tests in 1974, it was obvious that something more had to be done to protect the non-proliferation regime since states had the liberty to remain outside the purview of NPT by not signing it and yet, acquire technology leading to the development of nuclear weapons. This concern led to the creation of the Nucl-ear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of nuclear supplier countries in the same year which sought to strengthen the non-proliferation regime through the adoption and implementation of two sets of Guidelines that prohibit the export of nuclear or nuclear related material. In doing so, the NSG could keep an eye on the nuclear activities and also ensure that a state does not acquire the material which could later on help in the making of nuclear weapons. NSG further prohibited its members to trade nuclear or related material with a state which is not party to the NPT or does not have an IAEA safeguards agreement in force. Again, both Pakistan and India are not members of the NSG, while both America and China are a part of it. Despite its legal obligations arising under the NSG Guidelines, the US eventually managed to sign a civil nuclear agreement with India in October 2008 enabling it to transfer nuclear and related material to India (not party to the NPT) for peaceful purposes. In response to the international criticism, the argument put forth by both countries was Indias impeccable history of non-proliferation. Does this argument carry enough weight to bypass international legal obligations? Whatever answers there may be to this question, there is one overwhelming consequence: Precedent was laid down which is popularly known as the 'Indian exception now. On the basis of the Indian exception alone, there is no reason why India or even the US can oppose the Pak-China nuclear deal. Even if Pakistan is not a party to the NPT, it could still enter into a safeguards agreement with the IAEA just like India which should suffice for the purposes of showing the international community that the nuclear trade would only be used for peaceful purposes. The arguments against the proposed Pak-China deal may have carried some weight had there been no similar agreement in force. But in view of the nuclear agreement for peaceful purposes between India and the US, any argument or opposition by NSG members or like-minded states does carry any legal eminence or moral justification. Eventually, it is a matter to be decided between the two sovereign states that cannot be legally compelled to draw out of this deal should they both wish to. The writer is a practicing barrister and director (Research) of the Research Society of International Law, Pakistan. Email: