A debate on India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Council is much-deserved, especially when it involves coountries like China (which is sympathetic to Pakistan) and India, USA (which are anti-Pakistan). The situation here is complex. The council comprises of members who have different goals and agendas and varied inclinations, but the agenda is not lost. The rat race of being branded a Super Power cannot be missed and NSG is just a step ahead toward that.
True, India has to cover several such steps to the top, buth a membership with the community, nevertheless, would be a big leap. Here's analysing why NSG membership is important for India.
Expansion of Nuclear power generation
India is keen to become a member of the NSG, apart from being stakeholders in the Wassenaar Agreement and Australia Group, to expand its nuclear power generation. India also wishes to enter the export market in the coming years. Certainly, India does enjoy significant possibilities after the 2008 NSG waiver, which enable it to engage in civilian nuclear trade with other countries. It has also been a matter of great pride for the country to have entered into such agreements with countries like Russia, France, UK, USA, Kazakhstan, Australia, and others.
In fact, membership with the NSG will provide greater certainly and a legal grounding for India's nuclear regime, evoking greater confidence of countries that invest billions of dollars to set up ambitious nuclear power projects in India. Once that is achieved, India can see itself getting promoted to a batch of law-making nations rather than a much more subdued law-adhering nation.
India, ideally, should not have a problem in attaining the NSG membership, given its record of adherence to all the commitments over the last 8 years. However, there are hurdles that need to be overcome and hence the last minute plans of PM Modi to visit Switzerland and Mexico. The decision on the 23-24 June in Seoul will be taken basing on political and economical considerations rather than on merit.
In such cases, China has always played a part from outside, encouraging smaller countries to go against the move. But in India's case, apart from smaller countries, China has been very outspoken about its opinion of India joining the NSG. As per rule, any country, big or small can raise objections and the panel has to adhere to that. Hence to win the veto, Modi launched a hectic diplomatic itinerary to overcome the opposition of the countries that may still have concerns.
India interested for clean and green program
In an open conversation with China, India has tried to convince it that the urgency for membership is not guided by by any political or strategic considerations but only to facilitate the expansion of its clean and green nuclear energy programme.
And in order to do that, it dispatched its foreign secretary to Beijing on 16-17 June. If the reason is accepted, the PM will take up the issue with President Xi Jinping in Tashkent whereboth leaders are likely to be present for the SCO Summit on 23-24 Summit.
India, a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
India being a member of the MTCR holds merit for the NSG membership since all the 34 nations in this community are members of the NSG too. China, however, is not a member here but has already applied for one. The primary reason why China has not been accepted as a member till date is because of its dubious history of according missile technology to countries like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.
While this holds everthing against China, there are other factors too that nullifies its validation of not including India in the NSG. For instance, being a member of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is not a mandate to be a member of the NSG. China's argument of Pakistan's potential as an NSG member does not hold good too as its credentials are flawed and inadequate. It has, in fact, supplied nuclear technology and materials to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Unlike Pakistan, India has kept its commitment of separating the reactors which are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards with those which are not.
India argues that its consideration as an NSG member should be based on its performance and not its credentials.
India became a Member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) on 7 June 2016. All 34 members of MTCR are members of the NSG. India is hence assured of support of these 34 members in its quest for NSG membership. It may be noted that China is not a member of MTCR, although it put in its application in 2004, because several members have concerns about China's dubious proliferation record in supplying missile technology to countries like Pakistan, Iran and North Korea.
Most questions raised by China against India's membership have little validity. For instance, membership of NPT is not a condition for becoming a member of NSG.
It is only a guiding principle to which consideration needs to be given. Pakistan's credentials for NSG membership are highly flawed and inadequate. Over the last eight years India, as per its commitment, has separated its reactors which are under IAEA safeguards and those which are not.
Pakistan has a blemished and flawed proliferation record as it has engaged in illicit supply of nuclear technology and materials to Iran, Libya and North Korea. No comparison between the track records of the two countries is hence justified. India maintains that rather than evolving criteria, its performance should be the basis on which the decision on its application should be taken.
A chance for China to bridge the gap
While Russia has assured India that it would shield it against China's decision, the latter is still hopeful that China will see reason in its arguments and agree to its membership whole-heartedly.
In fact, China would see the oppostunity of bridging gaps rather than expanding the differences the two countries have. This is probably the last chance to mend relations and relate to the broader picture of the ties emerging out of it.