In a blow to Islamabad’s hopes of getting membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the US on March 22 put seven Pakistani companies and one in Singapore, believed to be front for a Pakistani firm, on its “Entity List” for suspected nuclear trafficking. A total of 23 entities were added to the list published in the US Federal Register last week.
Apart from the eight firms linked to Pakistan, the list includes 15 entities from South Sudan.
According to the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), these companies had been “determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.” While three of them are listed for their involvement in the proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear activities, two others procure supplies for nuclear-related entities already on the list, and the remaining three, including the one in Singapore, act as fronts for listed entities.
The 48-nation NSG checks nuclear arms proliferation by controlling the export and transfer of materials that could assist nuclear weapons development. China, which has been repeatedly blocking India’s attempts to become a NSG member unless Pakistan too was allowed to become one, will now find it difficult to justify that position.
However, “while the listing of these firms will make it harder for China to insist that Pakistan too should join the NSG if India does, it remains to be seen whether Beijing will actually withdraw its objection to India’s membership,” he said.Inclusion in the US list of entities for sanctions is considered to be the “highest level of red-flag” in the US export control regime. While the assets of companies placed on the entity list are not frozen, US and foreign companies doing business with them will need special licenses to operate in the United States. It’s unclear whether these sanctions are part of US President Donald Trump’s increasingly hard stance on Pakistan.
BIS first published the Entity List in February 1997 as part of its efforts to inform the public of entities who have engaged in activities that could result in an increased risk of the diversion of exported, re-exported and transferred (in-country) items to weapons of mass destruction programs. Since its initial publication, grounds for inclusion on the Entity List have expanded to activities sanctioned by the State Department and activities contrary to US national security and/or foreign policy interests.