India has been lobbying for admission in the world’s elite technology club, Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), for over a decade. So far, it has bagged the support of four nuclear power states and majority of the group’s other 43 members. China as well as some European countries, such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland, have not given in yet.
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The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries “seeking to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.”
It is quite ironic that India – a nuclear pariah such as Israel, Pakistan and North Korea – wins affirmation from the US, Russia, UK and France for NSG membership, which was created in 1974 in reaction to Delhi’s nuclear test called Smiling Buddha in Rajasthan. Ever since, this has rung loud alarm bells amongst countries with advanced nuclear research and capability that the technology transferred for peaceful purposes, such as medical research and electricity generation, could be misused.
Every member of the group is required to be a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty or Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. India and Pakistan have not signed either of the two agreements.
Washington singlehandedly fathers Delhi’s demand for the NSG slot after it granted discriminatory exemptions by signing a civil nuclear deal in a phased manner over a decade ago. The Indo-US nuclear deal provides India with fissile material for 50 additional warheads every year sans all other resources.
In January 2014 Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) ranked India’s nuclear security practices 23rd out of 25 countries, followed by Iran and North Korea. Delhi’s programme is said to be marred with opacity and obfuscation on regulations and security issues. Yet, US President Obama gave India a clean chit during his second visit to in 2015, terming India as a responsible country, which wants to use nuclear energy in a peaceful manner. The reports of nuclear accidents and missing fissile materials in India fall on deaf ears in the White House as well as its three other backers in the P-5.
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Besides America, France, Russia and Kazakhstan already sell 4,914 tonnes of uranium to India while it has agreements with Canada, Mongolia, Argentina and Namibia for more. Once in the NSG, India will be able to sign nuclear deals with Australia and Japan similar to the one inked with the US. Though Foreign Policy reported in detail, the western media largely overlooks Delhi’s ambitious secret nuclear city in Mysore, Karnataka.
Position of power
If India is admitted as member in the club, Delhi will become key decision maker in the governing body of nuclear suppliers. It cannot only block Pakistan from entry but also lobby to gradually undo Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.
Additionally, besides easing procurement of more fuel for India, it’ll also be an opportunity for its industry to aggressively tap into the global market. India has sizeable deposits of Uranium in the Belgaum-Hubli-Dharwad area and wishes to export to the West and elsewhere. Ironically, a country that has failed to stem nuclear smuggling of thorium out of southeastern Tamil Nadu so far wants to use NSG berth to legitimise it. Delhi is keener to import advanced nuclear technology from western nations that will help its ambitious nuclear programme.
Exceptionally, the blame for Pakistan’s diplomatic fiasco does not go to politicians. It was Musharraf’s regime that failed to put up sufficient international efforts to block the US-India nuclear deal, framework for which was signed in 2005.
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Now that Pakistan has belatedly pursued the issue of NSG membership, China remains its best bet. Beijing has pleaded that Islamabad and Delhi both should be accepted as members of the group. So far, it has vetoed India’s bid for the seat.
Even if South Asian nuclear states are enrolled in the club, India will be able to accrue much larger benefits compared to Pakistan. At least, it will ensure nuclear parity with India in the suppliers’ group while getting access to nuclear technology wherever possible and more importantly, affordable.
If India can become a member today, few years down the line the same criteria may let another NPT defiant country, such as North Korea, enter the elite club.
Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul. He tweets @naveed360