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Updated: February 29, 2012 01:38 IST

Ranjan Mathai to take up NSG membership issue at Vienna meet

Sandeep Dikshit
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Ranjan Mathai. File Photo: V.V. Krishnan
The Hindu Ranjan Mathai. File Photo: V.V. Krishnan

U.S., France, Russia have promised to back its bid

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai will put forward India’s case for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the world's premier non-proliferation body, in an outreach meeting with its key members on Thursday in Vienna.

While no decision on the grant of membership is expected at the first major interaction since May last year, the Indian delegation will raise it after updating the NSG on the ground covered by it on harmonising the NSG control list with India's export control systems.

The NSG was a Western initiative primarily aimed at emasculating India’s nuclear industry after it conducted a nuclear explosion in 1974. Since then, it became a closed cartel that permitted only five countries to maintain nuclear arsenals while seeking to punish others which sought such a route. India, Pakistan and Israel were not made NSG members (North Korea subsequently walked out) because they did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which seeks to roll back their nuclear weapons programme and allow this to only five countries – the US, France, China, Russia and the UK.

It is India’s refusal to sign the NPT that has made it tough for it to join the NSG as well as other international export control regimes —the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. But as compared to Pakistan, which is also keen on joining the NSG, India’s path has smoothened after the NSG allowed it to join the global nuclear commerce mainstream. This led to India inking civil nuclear agreements with several countries including the US, Russia and France who will now set up nuclear energy based power plants and transfer technology.

Government sources said the upcoming one-day meeting will also see NSG updating the Indian delegation on the developments that have taken place including the tightening of norms relating to the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology. India will explain its commitment to non-proliferation and attempts to meet international standards in this regard besides state its willingness to discuss the Fissile Missile Cut-off Treaty.

India has been engaged in a major way with the NSG since 2010 during an interaction in Budapest. At that time the Indian delegation was not led by the Foreign Secretary as was the case last year when Nirupama Rao headed the team for the meeting at The Hague.

Although several countries feel India as a NPT non-signatory should not be given membership, civil nuclear technology giants such as U.S., France and Russia have promised to back its bid as they feel its case is different from that of Pakistan and Israel.

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