Primer: Making sense of the NSG muddle

Formed after Pokhran tests to keep India out, the ‘nuke cabal’ will come a full circle if it makes New Delhi a member

GN Bureau | June 23, 2016


#China   #Diplomacy   #NSG   #Nuclear Suppliers Group   #Pakistan  
Primer: Making sense of the NSG muddle
Photo courtesy: Twitter/Vikas Swarup @MEAIndia

What is NSG?

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a syndicate formed by nuke-powered countries to keep a check export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. The aim is to prevent nuclear proliferation, by not letting critical material and technology fall into the hands of a rogue state.

When did it come up?

India’s nuclear tests of 1974 alerted the nuke powers who wanted to keep the technology among themselves. Seven countries – Canada, West Germany, France, Japan, the USSR, the UK, and the US – first met in 1975, and that was the launch of NSG. They soon prepared a list of technologies that they would not export to countries like India which had not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). The organisation has grown to 48 members, and its ambit to regulate the global nuclear trade in general.

What would that mean for India?

India was thus rendered nuclear pariah, an untouchable nation, that went on to develop its nuclear capability on its own – without support from any nuke-powered nation. India had a second series of nuclear tests in 1998 – followed by the same from Pakistan, of course.

What has changed the scene?

The Indo-US civil nuclear deal. The Bush-Manmohan initiative is meant to enable India to harness nuclear power to meet its growing electricity demand. It also means a huge opportunity for technology provider firms of the US as well as other capable nations.

The deal, which means US firms committing to proving n-technology to India, would of course be a violation of the very basis of NSG. Thus, a special ‘exception’ had to be secured from the NSG so that the US could enter into this agreement with India.

What’s the latest?

After the n-deal – and the ‘exception’ made by NSG, India is no longer a nuclear pariah, and while NSG remains relevant for broader goals, its original cause of keeping New Delhi out is irrelevant now.

India refuses to sign the NPT, terming it as discriminatory, but wants to formally come on board with NSG membership. That is also a natural follow-up to the n-deal. That is why, right since 2010, the US has campaigned for India’s membership, and several other nations (mostly n-tech providers, especially France) have supported the cause.

India last month made the formal application for membership, which is coming up for consideration at the NSG’s plenary meet in Seoul on June 24. Predictably, Pakistan also made the application, and it has been supported by China.

Since NSG takes decisions by consensus, China’s stance is crucial. Initially, it opposed India’s entry, but of late its media and think tanks have let out rather ambiguous views.

 

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