By help­ing In­dia be­come Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group mem­ber, US aims to strengthen the global nu­clear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion regime, Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty be­ing at the heart of it.

The pre­lim­i­nary tech­ni­cal meet­ing of the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group (NSG) in Vienna on June 9 dis­cussed the new ap­pli­ca­tions from In­dia, Pak­istan and Namibia. The dis­cus­sions, ac­cord­ing to sources, recog­nised the merit in the In­dian ap­pli­ca­tion al­beit some coun­tries raised the mat­ter of process and cri­te­ria. It is not dif­fi­cult to fathom who those coun­ties would be with China op­pos­ing In­dia’s mem­ber­ship de­spite be­ing her­self a known nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tor, not be­ing mem­ber of Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy Con­trol Regime (MTCR), where In­dia is, and flaunt­ing the MTCR guide­lines while promis­ing to ad­her­ence to the same both ver­bally and in writ­ing. On ad­mit­tance of In­dia to the MTCR, a sig­nif­i­cant comment of a se­nior US ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial was that it (MTCR) “per­mits In­dia to con­tinue to ad­vance its non-pro­lif­er­a­tion lead­er­ship in the world and con­trib­ute to that regime, to limit mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion in the world”.

China ac­tu­ally voiced her op­po­si­tion to In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of NSG by link­ing it with the Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT) of which In­dia is not a sig­na­tory. Just be­fore the pre­lim­i­nary tech­ni­cal meet­ing of the NSG last week, John Kerry, US Sec­re­tary of State, wrote let­ters to all NSG mem­bers to sup­port In­dia’s bid. How­ever, China did not budge. Sig­nif­i­cantly, when the Indo-US Civil Nu­clear Deal was signed in 2008. US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush had stymied Chi­nese op­po­si­tion through a tele­phone call to the Chi­nese Pres­i­dent.

The next NSG meet­ing is sched­uled for June 20-24 in Seoul, South Korea, where the Chi­nese stance is un­pre­dictable with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent adopt­ing an all-round more ag­gres­sive ap­proach to achieve China’s stated aim of be­com­ing a ‘Great Power’. China has been smart in por­tray­ing that she wants NSG en­try to be norm­based with no ex­cep­tions. This ap­proach is China’s ef­fort to also help Pak­istan get NSG mem­ber­ship. By say­ing so, China wants to gar­ner sup­port of other NSG mem­bers to also call for en­try only by ac­cepted norms. But then China for­gets she al­ready ac­cepted a waiver in favour of In­dia dur­ing the Indo-US Nu­clear Deal of 2008? Pak­istan be­ing ve­he­mently op­posed to the Fis­sile Ma­te­rial Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) ar­gues that In­dia’s NSG mem­ber­ship will fuel a nu­clear arms race in the re­gion. But it is ap­par­ent that it is Pak­istan that in col­lu­sion with China is fever­ishly en­larg­ing her nu­clear stock­pile, es­pe­cially the tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons (TNWs). In­stead of op­pos­ing In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of NSG, Pak­istan should have been root­ing for and joined the FMCT. Through adroit diplo­macy, In­dia has re­frained from mak­ing any of­fi­cial comment on China’s ob­jec­tion to In­dia’s NSG mem­ber­ship.

In­ter­est­ingly, the Indo-US joint state­ment dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s visit to the US made no men­tion of the South China Sea (SCS) even as an­a­lysts vi­su­alise an 85 per cent chance of a flare up in SCS be­cause of Chi­nese ag­gres­sive moves. Un­der the Indo-US Civil Nu­clear Agree­ment In­dia has al­ready sep­a­rated its civil­ian and mil­i­tary nu­clear pro­grammes, placed the civil­ian part un­der In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA) safe­guards, and changed its ex­port laws in line with the NSG and other nu­clear con­trol regimes MTCR, Wasse­naar Ar­range­ment, and Aus­tralia Group — the four key nu­clear con­trol regimes.

By help­ing In­dia be­come NSG mem­ber, US aims to strengthen the global nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion regime, NPT be­ing at the heart of it. With US help­ing In­dia be­come mem­ber of all four nu­clear con­trol regimes, In­dia would be akin to an NPT mem­ber, even though tech­ni­cally not one. Why In­dia wants to be a mem­ber of the NSG is to join the elite club of nu­clear club that de­cides the global rules of nu­clear com­merce. Such mem­ber­ship would also give In­dia the li­cence to sell equip­ment. China is ob­vi­ously also keenly watch­ing the ‘Modi Magic’ at play – the ease with which Modi lit­er­ally floored the US Congress and se­cured the sup­port of Switzer­land and Mex­ico for In­dia’s NSG mem­ber­ship dur­ing the same trip. Indo-US grow­ing co­op­er­a­tion in the Indo-Pa­cific arena, par­tic­u­larly in terms of mar­itime co­op­er­a­tion.

Whether China wants to con­tinue blockad­ing In­dia’s NSG bid or bar­gain for NSG mem­ber­ship also for Pak­istan and her own ad­mis­sion to MTCR re­mains a ques­tion mark but China is acutely aware of her own his­tory of nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion and Pak­istan’s con­duct as well. Sig­nif­i­cantly, China has for the first time pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the role of Pak­istan in the co­or­di­nated ter­ror at­tacks that took place in Mum­bai between Novem­ber 26 and 29, 2008, that claimed the lives of 164 peo­ple and left an­other 308 in­jured. China would have also noted the speech of Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in the Coun­cil of For­eign Re­la­tions af­ter Modi’s ad­dress to US Congress wherein he talked of huge po­ten­tial of Indo-US ties, es­pe­cially in the global com­mon seas, and his crit­i­cism of the US pol­icy, also say­ing, “We know that this new Obama for­eign pol­icy con­cept, lead­ing from behind, can now be de­clared an un­am­bigu­ous fail­ure…”

Whether NSG mem­bers want to ad­mit Pak­istan into NSG or MTCR mem­bers grant mem­ber­ship to China, China would be acutely aware the con­tin­ued blockad­ing of In­dian mem­ber­ship to NSG may not be in the best in­ter­est of China her­self where In­dia is poised on the very cusp of such mem­ber­ship with to­tal US back­ing.


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