NSG and India: Continues to hang fire

India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) cartel that controls nuclear exports – failed in this group’s past plenary sessions. This consistent rejection at this point came as a big disappointment to Indian observers.

In all this debate at the year’s end, China has been seen as a chief blocker for Indian NSG membership. It is adamant to understand What NSG is about? It mainly emphasizes on curbing nuclear arms proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that could foster to nuclear weapons development .Where the most important prerequisite for entry into NSG is that a state must be a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), while India is not.

India blames only one country in blocking its NSG membership that is China whereas there are others too which are seemed to be that much determined in viewing this violation as a threat to such cartels. These governments including Ireland, Austria and New Zealand have strong positions against this NSG membership and are of the view that the group would not bend the rules and allow India’s accession because it had not signed the NPT.

The NSG member states should not say yes, because for years, International powers and elites have sought one way or the other to bend rules for India in maintaining her status as a de-facto nuclear power in order to counter China’s growing influence.

Despite the continuous tensions, above image shows China being a biggest trade partner of India where trade between the two has risen to more than $40bn from $1bn in 2001-2002. Still, it has given very clear message to New Delhi in the recent Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) meeting – there’s no place for India in this elite club. This is a clear indication that it’s India who just wanted to become the first exception to join NSG without signing the NPT. Whereas, China seems to be opposed of any exceptions to the principle.

“If exceptions are allowed here or there on the question of NPT, the international non-proliferation order then will collapsed altogether,” Wang Qun, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “In the absence of NPT as the political and legal basis, how could the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula be resolved? All these merit reflection. While it’s easy to adopt double standards, the consequence can be enormous.”

The U.S. senator, Ed Markey says it is a dangerous long-term trend. This exceptional support will enable India to join the NSG would cause a “never-ending” nuclear race in South Asia. Which is also expected to have a far-reaching impact on South Asia’s future.

Beyond all this Chinese opposition to Indian NSG membership, China is also the one who offered a helping hand to India in addressing the country’s nuclear energy needs. Interestingly, the same proposal had been put forward by Beijing regarding civil nuclear cooperation in 2014 when President Xi Jinping visited India.

In a subsequent development, Ambassador Wang Qun, director general of Arms Control in the Chinese foreign ministry visited India and Pakistan for informal consultations on the matter. A Chinese foreign ministry press release issued at the end of Wang’s India visit made two points:

(a) China wishes to see early commencement of an open and transparent inter-governmental process to undertake, in accordance with the mandate adopted by the NSG at its Seoul Plenary meeting, a comprehensive and thorough study on the question of the non-NPT states’ participation in the NSG in various aspects.

(b) China supports the notion of two-step approach within the Group to address the above question, i.e., at the first stage, to explore and reach agreement on a non-discriminatory formula applicable to all the non-NPT states, and to proceed to take up country-specific membership issues at the second stage. China, for its part, expressed its readiness to actively participate in the above process within the Group.

Nevertheless, this all is an endorsement to the fact that China does not play any country against the other, nor do they permit other countries to play the China card. The Chinese issue with the Indian NSG membership is that India is not a signatory to the NPT, the grouping needs to set fresh standards for the same. Where U.S. and some other countries are pushing for country-specific exemptions for India to get NSG membership while they utterly ignore the fact that South Asian region is still facing the harsh reality of mired up nuclear confrontations.

Usman Ali Khan
Usman Ali Khan
Pursuing M.Phil degree at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad Freelance writer and blogger E-mail: Usmanalikhan6[at]gmail.com