VIEWPOINT: NSG – INDIA ON CUSP OF MEMBERSHIP
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.
LT GENERAL P.C. KATOCH (RETD)