New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have scored a measure of diplomatic victory by winning Swiss backing for entry into the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) but, due to China’s continuous opposition, India will still have to wait a bit longer to break into the elite club that regulates global nuclear trade.
China has also been insisting that if any concession is given to India, a non-signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the same should apply to Pakistan that has allegedly been caught selling atomic weapons technology to Libya.
China’s argument has saddled India’s NSG bid with Pakistan’s bad track record. Analysts here say that this has put India’s application in a precarious situation for its entry into the grouping that works on the principle of consensus and allows a new member only if all existing members agree.
New members are admitted largely if they agree to be part of the NPT or Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India has signed neither on the ground that they are discriminatory.
India is keen on entering the NSG group because it controls nuclear commercial activities and technology transfers in the world. Its membership will also grant India global acceptance as a nuclear-armed power and equal footing with others.
India has the capacity to export nuclear fuel like thorium and supply nuclear technology in the future. That is not possible for a non-NSG state. Also, the membership will give India an edge over Pakistan, handing it a strategic clout to block Pakistan’s possible bid to enter the grouping.
India’s NSG application is expected to come up for review at the NSG meeting in Vienna on Thursday and Friday. It has already got the support of major NSG countries, including France, Russia, Britain, Japan, Mexico and the US.
Pakistan has also filed its application and since it doesn’t have support of major powers, it is unlikely to be taken up.
For India, China remains a “big hurdle”, Commodore Uday Bhaskar, president of the Society for Policy Studies, told reporters.
“Every country’s vote matters. Both Switzerland and Mexico are very important. But unless China is persuaded, it will be difficult,” said Bhaskar, one of India’s leading security and strategic affairs experts.
Arundhati Ghose, a former Indian diplomat who headed the Indian delegation for negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in 1996, agreed that it was “difficult” for India to get into the grouping that was established in 1974 post India’s Pokhran nuclear test to prevent the civilian nuclear trade and technology from being used for military ambitions.
Ghose, however, sounded optimistic from an Indian point of view on the grounds that “China doesn’t like to be isolated”.
“If everybody (at the NSG’s Vienna plenary meeting) agrees, it is likely that China may say yes to India’s application,” Ghose told reporters.
The experts rest their hopes on India’s lobbying with America to push Beijing during the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
This is not the first time that India has sought exemption from initialling NPT before joining NSG. In 2008, after hectic lobbying by India with the US, the bloc exempted India from signing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comprehensive safeguards, thereby allowing New Delhi to engage in nuclear trade with NSG members.
The exemption was given on the basis of certain non-proliferation commitments India had agreed to under the India-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement.