The fee for NSG membership

China’s announcement that it intends to > oppose India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group unless it agrees to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) comes just a month ahead of the NSG’s annual plenary session. For the past year, India had made admission to the 48-member NSG a focus of its international outreach, though membership has been a goal since the > India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement was signed in 2008. Several major countries including the U.S., Russia, Germany, the U.K. and Australia have openly backed the bid, despite the fact that India is not a signatory to the NPT, widely considered to be a key criterion for NSG membership. In 2015, > India reached out to many other NSG members, including those such as Ireland and Sweden that are members of the pro-disarmament group, the New Agenda Coalition, and have traditionally been opposed to its admission. The > visit to New Delhi of NSG Chairperson Rafael Grossi in October 2015, when he spoke of taking the request forward, was seen to be a positive sign in this effort. Thus the disappointment after the signal from Beijing last week. Clearly, China’s stand is a combination of its fraught relations with India as well as its desire that its “all-weather friend” Pakistan not be disadvantaged in the process. While this ignores Pakistan’s well-known proliferation record, it also points to failure on the part of Indian diplomats tasked with convincing China that admitting India to the NSG is the logical thing to do.

However, this is not the end of the road for India’s NSG ambitions. Indeed, it is a signal that more persuasive diplomacy is needed to bring around naysayers such as China from blocking New Delhi’s bid, much as was done to bring China on board to get India the NSG waiver in 2008. For this, the government must begin an internal debate to appraise its own position on the NSG membership, and to figure out how far it is willing to go to secure it. It will, first, have to reckon with the possibility that NSG members could object to an “India-specific” ruling, and that other non-NPT countries, including Pakistan and Israel, may also benefit from any flexibility that is shown in India’s case. Second, there is a possibility that India could receive a “second class” membership, and not be considered a “nuclear weapons state” by the NSG. The third, and most important, point is that membership of the NSG, a body set up specifically in response to India’s nuclear test in 1974, will eventually require India to curtail its nuclear weapons programme. U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments, made after the Nuclear Security Summit, that the nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan are taking them in the “wrong direction”, underscore this. If India aims to be part of the elite NSG club, it must have a realistic idea of what the fee for full membership is, added to the diplomatic outreach required to win support from China. A full and transparent cost-benefit analysis is crucial.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 12:57:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/nsgs-annual-plenary-session-fee-india-needs-to-pay-for-ngs-membership/article8607952.ece

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