But the Obama Administration is unlikely to openly criticise such a deal, given its overwhelming dependence on Islamabad for its Afghan operations even though it might object to it inside the NSG, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in its report released today.
"Contrary to guidelines adopted in 1992 by nuclear equipment supplier states in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), China is poised to export two power reactors to Pakistan.
"This transaction is about to happen at a time when China's increasingly ambitious nuclear energy programme is becoming more autonomous," said the report authored by Mark Hibbs, a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Programme.
Guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), representing 46 NPT states, call on parties to the NPT not to supply nuclear equipment to nonnuclear-weapon states, including Pakistan, without comprehensive IAEA safeguards.
The United States and other NSG states may object to the pending transaction but they cannot prevent China, which joined the NSG in 2004, from exporting the reactors.
"Senior officials in NSG states friendly to the United States said this month they expect that President Barack Obama will not openly criticise the Chinese export because Washington, in the context of a bilateral security dialogue with Islamabad, may be sensitive to Pakistan's desire for civilian nuclear cooperation in the wake of the sweeping US India nuclear deal which entered into force in 2008 after considerable arm-twisting of NSG states by the United States, France, and Russia," it said.
"The United States may also tolerate China's new nuclear deal with Pakistan because Obama wants China's support for United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran this spring," Hibbs observed.
Hibbs said the pending Sino Pakistan reactor deal reflects the growing confidence and assertiveness of China's nuclear energy programme as it establishes a track record of reliability in reactor construction and operation.
"Chinese nuclear entities are wary of interference from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in their programmes and are keen to establish their freedom of action vis-a-vis cooperating foreign governments and firms," it said.