However, membership not automatic; a long road of persuading all the members lies ahead
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the world's premier non-proliferation body, has decided to include India's request for membership as a special agenda item when it holds its annual meeting in the third week of June.
This was agreed upon during a meeting on Monday between the Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and the NSG Troika, currently consisting of the Netherlands, New Zealand and Hungary, Government officials told The Hindu from The Hague where the discussions were held.
However, the fact that the NSG Plenary will consider India's case does not mean membership will be granted automatically. A long road of persuading all the members lies ahead because decisions at NSG are taken unanimously, added the officials. Yet, India has already received public assurances of support from the Presidents of U.S., France and Russia. Several other important members have also promised to back its bid.
Pakistan, like India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an important precursor to NSG membership, is also vying for membership. Given a section of Pakistan's ruling elite's past acquiescence to scientist A.Q. Khan's running a virtual nuclear Walmart, its chances are slimmer than that of India.
India had engaged with the NSG on the same issue over a year ago in Budapest but the difference this time was that the delegation was led by Ms. Rao, an indication of the ground covered by both sides since then.
India wants to join all the four international export control regimes — NSG, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Group.
India must gain membership as early as possible because the NSG is said to be planning to tighten procedures for export of ENR (enrichment and reprocessing) technology which India desperately needs.
In this context, Ms. Rao articulated India's concerns which had been conveyed earlier too to NSG. India's position remains that sanctity of the September 2008 understanding which granted a special status to India enabling it to join the global commerce mainstream must be maintained.
During discussions it was understood that export control laws were discussed. There was an exchange of views on the NSG control list and India's export control systems. Officials privy to the talks said the NSG troika took note of India's commitment to non-proliferation and its attempt to meet international standards in this regard.
An earlier NSG Plenary had revised the export control list, which necessitated the discussions on Monday, but India had no say in the matter as it was not a member. Similarly, India conforms fully to the MTCR guidelines, but has no voice in the organisation for the same reason.
The NSG, a U.S. initiative, was triggered by the first Indian peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974. Since then, it found more adherents and only five among them are permitted to maintain nuclear arsenals.
India has found this discrimination galling and, along with Pakistan and Israel, refused to sign the NPT. India's sustained economic growth and its consequent thirst for power including plans for large doses of nuclear power, most of it based on imported technology, encouraged the U.S., France and Russia to help break India out of isolation. India claims that its impeccable non-proliferation record convinced the world to give it a special exemption at the NSG.