India for a few weeks before the meeting was expecting that its membership would be considered and it would find admission into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). But, despite USA support, there were objections from China and it seemed that China was the only country which was objecting to the Indian membership even when Indian government was confident of persuading Chinese.
At plenary meeting, things turned out differently as some other countries also expressed reservations. But officially, according to statement issued at end of NSG plenary, it said that discussions are on with political and legal aspects with regard to non-NPT signatory states. It can be interpreted in two ways:
Either India has failed to get place in NSG
Or, NSG has not closed the subject and it is considering further course of action
Too much hyped?
What was widely observed that Indian media created much hype of the issue which led to strong belief of getting the membership. The intellects who understood such international issues had been of the clear opinion that this was not the time that India would get into NSG. As per reports, out of 48 members, 38 members were in support of India being in NSG as an exception country. There were 10 other members and had gradation of their views on subject. According to few, there was a need to simultaneously consider India’s entry and also develop a procedure, a criterion on how to deal with non-NPT signatory. Others were of view that a criterion should be built first and then look at India’s membership as a possibility or otherwise.
Yet, focus had been on China for various reasons
Biggest neighbor of India
Complex relation with India
Of the countries that were not fully supporting India’s case, China was most influential, most powerful member of NSG
However, it needs to be focused that a rational process has to follow. 38 countries are already in support, other countries will over time also perhaps understand India’s view that each case need to be looked at on merit basis and cannot apply same criteria for all applicants.
As US openly supported Indian membership, there was a tacit belief that if US supports, it is going to be a smooth ride. There can be a temptation to create hype which itself puts pressure on countries that are not confident to support India. It can be intentional or might get leaked into media. However, diplomacy is done in back channels and pragmatically, it takes time.
2008 and 2016 are not comparable. India-China and China-US relations were less complicated in 2008. China had benefit of continuously supporting nuclear technology to Pakistan. In 2016, China has nothing to gain. Also, China-US relations are more complex.
Thus, it can be also inferred that US support is alone not sufficient to clinch any deal in international fora. However, another point of view says that US did not give its 100% which made India’s case not strong enough.
Has India lost the chance to be NSG member?
It will be wrong to say so. The NSG works on consensus and there was no agenda as of now due to lack of consensus. No statement has been issued about rejection of the membership application, hence, there are chances of future deliberations.
Along with china, there is a Pakistan angle. Pakistan has been very explicit in its view on India’s NSG entry and it also expressed satisfaction that India’s bid to NSG had been sort of foiled for the time. It views that India getting NSG membership will create imbalance in the geo-politics of South-Asia.
In a concurrent meeting held at Tashkent, both India and Pakistan have got Shanghai Cooperation Council membership. For many years, India had toiled hard to de-hyphen India-Pakistan where Pakistan comes in groups of countries like North Korea and Afghanistan, India has to be looked at par with likes of China. The simultaneous SCO membership and fail to get NSG membership weighs more gains for Pakistan. However, it is a sigh of relief for India when at ending statement of NSG’s plenary session mentioned outreach to India’s application but no mention of Pakistan.
Validity of Indian application
India’s claim to be a part of NSG has a certain validity. India has diversified nuclear programme, capable of buying nuclear reactors, capable of sharing nuclear technology in various format. But Pakistan’s nuclear programme is not diversified as that of India. So, for Pakistan to be member of NSG should create more reservation that of India. And what is interesting is that this argument has not been made by either government or media.
In history of NSG, a lot of politics has to be understood about how guidelines are made, how membership is decided etc. The last members brought in were countries like Estonia, Lithuania, Croatia and China. China became member in 2004. France wasn’t NPT signatory but was original member of first 7 countries who started it and so was Japan. So, there were first 7 countries who were not signatories to NPT and they developed understanding which means that there is always a flexibility to maneuver and accommodate other countries.
In terms of technology, India is far more credible for supplying nuclear technology as it is a suppliers group. Pakistan is more like North Korea and China also is proliferating country. Thus, India’s credentials are far more important. The case of India’s membership started in Holland in 2011, and hence it is going on for five years. Pakistan has just arrived on block. Thus it is China’s mistake to compare Pakistan to India. India has been recognized around world and thus, China has to understand not to push Pakistan’s validity beyond a point.
Another reason of India’s legitimacy of NSG leadership is the Paris Climate Change commitment, where it has committed 40% of power generation from non- fossil fuels sources, of which 1/3rd will be from nuclear power. Thus, access to nuclear technology is a necessity to meet that requirement. India has to work simultaneously at various factors like signing contracts, ordering for power plants to be built, technology to brought in etc. but they are likely to meet reluctance of some countries and companies as India is not a member. In actual reality, some of technology will come in when it will become member of NSG in coming years.
In 2011, NSG adopted a new guideline particularly for enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of plutonium which will be restricted to only NPT-signatory countries, which was an addition after 2008 waiver to India. So greatest game for India to join NSG will be to make sure that no such adverse guidelines in future are made which will adversely affect India’s national interests. This will be biggest gain.
Access to uranium is not technical issue but political issue because 2011 guidelines talk about NPT members, so it will become politically sensitive area. It fundamentally says enrichment and re-processing technology within NPT only. India has that capability except that we want to use that capability for military purpose. In international programme, re-processing is for civil nuclear reactor. That puts pressure on our military programme in that sense. Due to 2011 guidelines, countries such as Kazakhstan, Australia which supply us uranium, become politically sensitive due to contracts signed with us.
In future, other countries will also apply. Thus, India has to enhance its stature and convince other countries including China of our point of view. China should be explained mutual advantage of India joining NSG. China is very influential country in international relation and NSG too. Its acceptance may reduce reservations from certain countries. However, this is a formidable challenge.
Founded in 1974
Originally 7 founding members. Canada, West Germany, France, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Currently, 48
To prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Australia Group- chemicals
Established in 1985 (after use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1984)
Originally 15 members, now 42
To identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons.
Wassenaar Arrangement- conventional weapons and dual-use technologies
Established in 1996
Currently, 41 members
To facilitate multilateral export control in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods (used for peaceful and military purposes) and technologies
Take care à Different from Wassenaar Agreement. (agreement between employers’ and labour unions in Netherlands)
Established in 1987 by G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States of America.)
Originally 7 countries, now 35. India is latest entry
To prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.
Founded in 2001
Originally 6-member organization for mutual security, political and economic focus
Members- China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as full members