Courtesy: Hindu Business Line

Courtesy: Hindu Business Line

Indian bid for NSG Membership

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The editorial in the New York Times titled “No Exceptions for a Nuclear India” has expressed concerns over the bid for an Indian membership in the Nuclear Supplier Group. The NSG is a nuclear club of 48 nations determined to hold back nuclear proliferation by taking extreme measures at export and re-transferring of fissile material, which can be utilized in making of nuclear weapons.

As the New York Times editorial has discussed, India does not come up to the merit of being part of the Nuclear Supplier Group, since all other 48 nations of the NSG are signatories of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which India has vehemently refused to be a part of. Not being part of NPT places no compulsions on India for stopping the production of fissile material for making nuclear weapons.

For the past decades, the world has witnessed the USA bending rules for its relationship with India as India is vital to USA’s interests in countering China in the Asia-Pacific. US President Obama has been putting huge efforts for India to gain membership of the NSG, whose status is to be decided on June 9, 2016, and June 23, 2016. As part of the deal in 2008, the major clause stated that India is to uphold the responsibilities of a nuclear state similar to all other developed and advanced nuclear nations. India has disqualified itself by continuous production of fissile material and proliferating vertically. The NSG states are hoping not to repeat the mistake of 2008 by exempting India from any considerable and binding commitment. The countries which are supporting India are serving their trade and other interests by putting the issue of proliferation on the back burner.

The role of China becomes one of utmost importance, not only to Pakistan but also to the NSG as a whole. It is rumored that China is stacked against India and will not allow India to become a member of the NSG. The Chinese take on this issue is, if India can be exempted so can Pakistan; Pakistan’s past record is cleaner than India’s, having a ratio of 3:1 missile testing, Pakistan should be part of the NSG. Pakistan has also applied to become a member of the NSG and is supported by China in getting the membership since China has helped Pakistan in building up of Chashma nuclear power plant. In this regard, Pakistan has fared quite well this time. The breaking point here is that although China has been backing Pakistan’s membership in the NSG, the member states would not want Pakistan to become a part of the NSG and this would become even more difficult if India gains its entry in the NSG.

However, it is not in Chinese interest that India becomes a NSG member and be treated equally to other nuclear member states. The NSG club has now turned into a strategic battleground. Back in 2008, China hadn’t yet cast a negative vote for India; the strategic implication of this gesture was to project that China is not anti-India and also to use a carrot-and-stick policy against India. China didn’t want India to get closer to the US than it already was. Daniel Markey, a South Asia expert, is of the view that China was then trying to show that they are not against India but this time, the Chinese are bold enough to make overt maneuvers against India’s entry in the NSG.

India is of the view that she meets the necessary criteria needed to be a part of the NSG. India has also resolved the rising international concerns of the member states. There are also reports that India is ready to make few nuclear reactors which will give India’s domestic market a boost and that India is ready to trade and open up to international business.

Over the course of years, India has put massive diplomatic efforts to project itself as a responsible state, which is qualified to be a member of the NSG. The last nail in the coffin was PM Modi’s visit to Switzerland and Mexico. However, the final outcome of the NSG meeting cannot be predicted. Whether India will gain membership in the NSG is still uncertain as the club works on the basis of consensus; India will need a majority of yes votes for its membership. There are speculations that China, who in 2008 backed down from casting a negative vote, might do the same this Thursday (9 June 2016). China is also aware of the possibility that once India gains its entry into the NSG, Pakistan will never be given a chance to become its member too.

Some plausible questions arise here: if India manages to gain its membership in the NSG, would she stop the production of fissile material? Owing to India’s past record of refusing to even uphold the essence of NPT, the chances are minimal. The member states of the NSG are signatories of CTBT. Will India sign the CTBT or FMCT, providing India has nuclear facilities kept outside safeguards, with the latest reports of building a hydrogen bomb? The member states were quite enthusiastic to have trade with India but such questions are quite worrisome for them. The NSG works on general consensus, and if India gains its membership in the NSG, this gives rise to an even bigger question. Will the nuclear club be able to set up future guidelines if India continues testing missiles?

Moreover, if India gets into the NSG club it will have some serious consequences for the entire region. Pakistan and India are strategic contenders and if India will get into the NSG club it will definitely disturb the deterrence equilibrium. A disturbance of the deterrence equilibrium means disturbing the balance of power which will make the region vulnerable. The US should not surpass the precedence of Pakistan as they did in past via-a-vis US-India Nuclear Deal. The fate of India will be decided on 9th June in Vienna but indicators are showing that India will not qualify the membership for this year as India hasn’t met yet all the criteria of the membership. Pakistan is another big issue if India will be entertained it would weaken the rules for other non-recognized nuclear weapons states to join.

Analyzing the facts if India won’t get the membership this year it will be the cruel twist of fate as the US presidential elections are coming at the end of this year. The enigmatic future of Indian membership of NSG would be dependent on the new Leadership of the US. The factor of the victory to the Republicans or the Democrats as well as the usage of an anti China policy by the new president makes the future scenario of Indian membership in NSG very uncertain.

Sidra Khan
Sidra Khan has completed her Mphil in International Relations and is currently working as a Research Associate.

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