The U.S. has reiterated its support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in the face of opposition from China.
The 48-member NSG that regulates trade in nuclear technology and material will have its plenary next month in New York where it is expected to consider India’s admission into the exclusive club.
China, acting in concert with Pakistan, has thrown a spanner in the works for India, by linking New Delhi’s candidacy to Islamabad’s. NSG operates by consensus and all its current members are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Not only India, many other non-NPT members have voiced their aspirations to join the NSG. This poses a question for the international community. Many NSG members, China included, think that this matter shall be fully discussed and then decided by consensus among all NSG members in accordance with the protocols and procedure of the NSG,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang in Beijing.
Pakistan had earlier said it was coordinating with China to block India from the NSG. Bruised by the successful Indian diplomacy that recently stalled the U.S. sale of F-16 fighter planes to it, Pakistan has found an opportunity to hit back.
Bruised by the successful Indian diplomacy that recently stalled the U.S. sale of F-16 fighter planes to it, Pakistan has found an opportunity to hit back.
“It’s obvious that China’s position is aimed at keeping India out of the NSG if Pakistan cannot be a member of the same organisation,” said Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary and Chairman of the Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries, a think tank under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Responding to the developments, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in Washington: “Well, first of all, I’m going to refer you to the governments of China and Pakistan with respect to their positions on India’s membership. Deliberations… about the prospects of new members joining the Nuclear Suppliers Groups are an internal matter among current members. And then I’d point you back to what the President said during his visit to India in 2015, where he reaffirmed that the U.S. view was that India, ‘meets missile technology control regime requirements and is ready for NSG membership.’”
India got an exemption from the NSG for nuclear imports in 2008, following the civil nuclear deal with the U.S., despite not being a signatory to the NPT. In 2010, the Obama administration declared its support for India’s “full membership” of the group, but things have not moved far since.
The NSG exemption in 2008 was the outcome of unqualified lobbying on India’s behalf by the then Bush administration. Several western countries also were opposed to the exemption. The non-proliferation enthusiasts remain sceptical of India’s record since 2008 in taking additional measures to limit proliferation. The Chinese intervention that equates India with Pakistan — which has an established history of nuclear proliferation — complicates the scenario further.
While the Obama administration remains in principle supportive of India’s admission to the NSG, its willingness and ability to push other countries will be tested next month. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar reportedly sought more forceful American intervention on India’s behalf during his interactions in April with U.S. interlocutors.
(With inputs from Kallol Bhattacherjee in New Delhi)