8 June 2016

Nuclear Suppliers Group Need for Enlightened Consensus on India

Rahul Bhonsle 
Jun 6, 2016

Nuclear Suppliers Group Need for Enlightened Consensus on India

India is vying for a membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which is a, “group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports”. 

India’s aim of gaining membership of this group which at present has a galaxy of nuclear suppliers is to obtain resources for expansion of nuclear energy as a part of the country’s drive to promote development, expand economy without contributing to the vestiges of climate change which are the outcome of use of fossil fuels.

As per current estimates 40 percent of India’s power component would be derived from non-fossil fuels by 2030 of which nuclear will be an important component. Quite apparently a population of 1.25 billion would be dependent on the supply of clean energy in the future for which nuclear trade is important.

While India has post the 2008 Indo US 123 Agreement popularly known as the Indo US nuclear deal worked out bilateral agreements with a number of major suppliers – main amongst which are the United States, Russia and France, full fructification of benefits would come about only in case the country is a member of the NSG.

This would generate the required degree of confidence in the suppliers ending uncertainty not just on fuel and components but also technology.

Thus India has submitted an application for membership on 12 May just ahead of the extra ordinary plenary session of the Group on 9 June and a normal plenary session in Seoul from 20-24 June.

The NSG’s guiding objective is, “Facilitating legitimate international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field, in a manner consistent with the nuclear non-proliferation norms, is particularly important to the NSG”. India would eminently fit into this paradigm given the consistent record of non proliferation despite not having signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with many grading the country as a defacto NPT signatory.

The factors that would be applied for membership or as the NSG calls it “Participation,” as per the NSG web site are as follows:-

The ability to supply items (including items in transit) covered by the Annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the NSG Guidelines. 
Adherence to the Guidelines and action in accordance with them. 
Enforcement of a legally based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the Guidelines. 
Adherence to one or more of the NPT, the Treaties of Pelindaba, Rarotonga, Tlatelolco, Bangkok , Semipalatinsk or an equivalent international nuclear non-proliferation agreement, and full compliance with the obligations of such agreement(s). 
Support of international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of their delivery vehicles. 

India very much qualifies for membership including the all important clause, “adherence,” to as against being a signatory of the NPT though the non proliferation Ayatollahs may interpret the same differently. However under the same clause a waiver has been granted to India during the course of the Indo US Nuclear Deal thus this should not be insurmountable.

The NSG works by consensus. Approval of membership will require all members to include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic Of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, And United States to agree.

In all international treaties there are likely to be hold outs and the NSG is no exception. There are various estimates that countries as Austria, New Zealand, Mexico, Ireland and Switzerland amongst others are likely to disapprove membership to India on the grounds of being a non signatory of the NPT.

China has declared opposition to membership mainly on geo-political grounds to avoid giving fillip to a regional competitor while claiming that non signatories of NPT should not be permitted in the club. Some reports state that China is actively sponsoring Pakistan’s application though being a non NPT signatory and with a proliferation record that would not inspire confidence in most members of the Group. China could use Pakistan as leverage to keep India out or get both India and Pakistan.

NSG membership will require a series of conversations particularly with the likely hold outs and the visit of the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi to the United States for a summit with President Obama comes at the right time. United States support will push many others to collaborate but China given the present state of relations with Washington may yet remain a sceptic. The Prime Minister has clubbed visit to the US to some NSG members who are also seen as, “hold outs to win them over”.

The nuclear non proliferation lobby has already declared opposition through editorials in the New York Times amongst other forums. The path ahead is difficult but not insurmountable and hopefully there would be some success.

In the ultimate analysis members of the NSG must reach an enlightened consensus to bring 1.25 billion people many of whom are aspiring for a better future into the ambit of, “participation,” as a member of the exalted group.

Geo politics over NPT and emerging power equations cannot be allowed to keep this vast band of humanity out of the nuclear supplies and technology loop despite having a flawless non proliferation record. 

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