India seeks help of friends for Nuclear Suppliers Group entry

China's plan to block India is a serious threat, say expert.

June 04, 2016 12:42 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. File photo: Photo: Sandeep Saxena

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. File photo: Photo: Sandeep Saxena

>Weeks after China announced that it intends to block India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed on Friday a high-power campaign was under way aimed at “engaging all members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group” in the run-up to the extraordinary plenary that NSG will host in Vienna on June 9. The plenary is likely to consider India’s application to become a member of the group.

India’s quest of NSG membership is likely to feature prominently during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Switzerland, the U.S. and Mexico which are part of his five-nation trip beginning on Saturday.

“This [membership of NSG] has been an objective that we have pursued for many years now. We believe we made a lot of progress and that has led us to formally apply to NSG some days ago. We are engaging all NSG members regarding this issue,” S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, told the media at the MEA on Friday.

The more NSG-focused leg of the five-nation trip will begin with Mr. Modi arriving in Switzerland on Monday and going onward to the U.S. on June 6.

The Prime Minister will visit Mexico, a critical NSG member, for a day before returning to India on June 9. Both Mexico and Switzerland are known as “non-proliferation hardliners” who constitute a strong group in the NSG.

While NSG’s Chairperson Rafael Grossi told The Hindu in November 2015 that he would begin consultation with various countries that are part of the 48-member group for India’s membership, the process of India’s admission received an early jolt from China on May 19. Beijing announced that it sought membership of NPT as a precondition for any new membership of the NSG. India has traditionally opposed the NPT as a discriminatory instrument and did not sign it. President Pranab Mukherjee subsequently paid a visit to China.

On the eve of Mr. Modi’s five-nation tour, the South Korean ambassador to India Hyun Cho extended a personal note of support for India’s membership in the group which controls supply of nuclear material and technology in the world.

Track record matters “South Korea happens to be the chair of NSG meetings this year. It is high time that India gets invited to NSG as it has an impeccable track record,” he said. “What matters to NSG members is the track record of an applicant.”

“Getting us into the NSG will help facilitate nuclear trade with us,” Mr. Jaishankar said, while arguing that India’s growing energy needs require a re-ordered nuclear supply regulation.

Mr. Jaishankar deconstructed the argument which has been extended by “non-proliferation hardliners” who say that to become eligible for the NSG, India should first become a signatory of the NPT. “NSG is a regime – a flexible arrangement among states which is quite different from the NPT which is a treaty.”

He argued that membership will help both India’s plans to move away from fossil fuel reliance and said that the NSG already exempted India once in 2008 when it noted “the energy needs of India” after it separated military and civilian reactors in 2008 following the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement.

Experts had cautioned that China’s opposition is a serious threat. However the “extraordinary plenary” at the NSG will discuss “new applications” including those from India and Pakistan.

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