As the extraordinary two-day plenary of the Nuclear Suppliers Group began in Vienna on Thursday to discuss membership applications, India’s chances received a boost from Mexico, considered a “non-proliferation hardliner” thus far.
“As a country we are going to be positively and constructively supporting India’s (membership at the NSG) in recognition of the commitment by PM Modi to the International agenda of disarmament and non proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said after a meeting between the two leaders.
Mr. Modi was in Mexico on the last leg of his five-nation tour, and his visits to both Mexico and Switzerland, which also announced its support, were aimed at garnering backing for entry to the NSG, given that both countries have held strong positions on non-proliferation in the past.
Meanwhile, highly placed sources told The Hindu that Italy, which had earlier blocked India’s entry over issue of the arrest of Marines accused of killing Indian fishermen, has indicated that it will support India’s case.
“It’s an ongoing process but most countries appear positive,” the sources said.
India’s biggest concern from the 48-nation group comes from China, which has argued that NSG members must be signatories to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel are among countries that have not signed the NPT, which India believes is discriminatory.
India expects ‘domino effect’ on support
Given China’s public opposition to India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India has been working on garnering support of other countries in the group to isolate China.
Ahead of the plenary session that began in Vienna on Thursday to consider membership application, an official in the know of the negotiations told The Hindu, “What we would hope for is a domino effect, where countries that support India influence the ones still holding out.” Statements during the meetings by countries like Sweden in support of India could also turn the tide in India’s favour.
Others still hesitant
Though NSG negotiations are held behind closed doors and a final decision is expected by consensus at the plenary session in Seoul on June 24 and 25, agency reports from Vienna say Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Austria are among countries still holding out on India. “China is the big block clearly, but there are a few ‘question marks’ that remain in the group too, who believe non-NPT members must not be admitted,” a diplomat said.
In particular, Pakistan’s application for membership, which will also be taken up, is expected to queer the pitch. According to a Reuters report, China was “hardening its position” on Pakistan being given the same consideration as India. But diplomats The Hindu spoke to said Pakistan’s poor record in nuclear proliferation and in not having brought its facilities under IAEA safeguards would make it an unlikely candidate for support.
In contrast, Pakistan, which had applied for membership a week after India did in May, said it was warning NSG members that India’s entry would disturb “strategic stability in South Asia”.