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Why India Should Continue to Push For NSG Membership

28/06/2016 8:35 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) concluded its plenary meeting in Seoul on 24 June, with India remaining outside the export control group. India's engagement with the NSG dates back to 2004, which subsequently led to the unanimous decision of the September 2008 waiver by the export control group. The exceptional waiver adopted by consensus facilitated the civil nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the United States. Since then, India has held regular discussions with the NSG. Since 2011, at every NSG plenary meeting, there has been a discussion on India's place therein, and consideration of all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 statement on the United States-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation. However, with the prospects for India's immediate participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group getting blocked, there are emerging questions as to what now and what next. Is this a permanent setback or should India continue to pitch for NSG entry as a participating government? Is India willing to undertake additional responsibilities by way of "entry fee" into the NSG? While India's admittance into the NSG will not accrue it stupendous advantages, entry into the export control group is nevertheless coveted for some good reasons.

An NSG entry would give India an opportunity to be involved in the wider decision-making process concerning supply of nuclear materials and technology.

The 2008 NSG waiver accorded several advantages to India. The exceptional waiver enabled India to enter into civil nuclear energy cooperation agreements with countries like Canada, Kazakhstan, US, Russia, France and Australia. It also holds prospects for India to export indigenous nuclear technology to other countries as well. On the political side, the NSG waiver de-hyphenated India from Pakistan and reiterated India's commitment towards non-proliferation efforts that will continue to be pursued with honesty and integrity. Hence, India will not incur any major loss even though immediate participation into the NSG is withheld for now.

However, India must continue its efforts in seeking NSG admittance as a participating government. As a country with advanced nuclear technology, India has a major role to play in both nuclear security and safety-related matters. The commitment made by India at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington enunciates the responsibilities already undertaken. It underscores that India has an effective role to play in matters of nuclear security governance. There is an upsurge of countries embarking on civilian nuclear energy programmes, including India. In this regard, India can bring to the table a certain set of "skills" in terms of stringent domestic export controls and safeguards agreements that can be covered within the wider ambit of the NSG. India should continue to pitch for NSG entry as it would give the nation an opportunity to be involved in the wider decision-making process concerning supply of nuclear materials and technology. This would accrue it the status of a de facto nuclear weapon state and improve the optics of India's position in the nuclear security regime.

India must continue to strive for NSG participation in order to expose the menace of horizontal and vertical proliferation that is being pursued by China...

A procedural hurdle in India's admission into the NSG comes from China, which has suggested that India must join the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT is based on a flawed premise that discriminates between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. This fundamental flaw in the NPT makes it inconsistent with the objectives upheld by India. India believes that an equitable treaty that upholds shared responsibility towards time-bound nuclear disarmament must be central to the NPT objective. Nonetheless, India continues to contributes to the "widest possible implementation of the provisions and objectives of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons" as enunciated in Paragraph 1 (a) of the September 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India. Thus there appears no fundamental contradiction between India's NSG entry and the NPT objectives.

India must continue to strive for NSG participation in order to expose the menace of horizontal and vertical proliferation that is being pursued by China despite being an NSG member. China has played a tactical move in blocking India's entry into the NSG by linking it to the NPT and Pakistan. While signing the NPT as a precondition for joining the NSG can be countered on the specific ground that though being a founding member of the NSG (founded in 1974), it acceded to the NPT only in 1992. This reflects on the invalidity of the argument that India has to be a signatory of the NPT as a pre-condition for entry into the NSG.

While this may not be die-hard game for India, admission into the NSG must be considered important for the better governance of the nuclear security regime.

China's position at the 2016 NSG plenary meeting made it obvious that Beijing is desperately trying to piggyback Pakistan into the export control group by using the India card. China is supporting Pakistan despite its proliferation track record. Arguably, China's proliferation record also bears several issues that are inimical to the very spirit and objectives of the NSG. India must highlight that admission into the NSG must be solely conditioned upon commitment to the objectives of the export control group -- to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, materials and technology.

While this may not be die-hard game for India, admission into the NSG must be considered important for the better governance of the nuclear security regime. India may consider undertaking certain additional responsibilities like reconsidering its position on the CTBT as a membership fee for entry into the NSG club. Since India will not conduct a nuclear test ab initio unless an adversary threatens its national interests, a revisit to the CTBT debate may be welcome. This will highlight India's position as a sincere partner that is always willing to cooperate in upholding unbiased objectives of the non-proliferation regime.

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