Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and India

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The Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, India’s application for membership and Chinese opposition. (June 2016); Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 4, 2016
Nuclear club, why India wants to be in NSG; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG): the essential facts

The Times of India, May 28, 2016

(Compiled by: Ankita Rajeshwari)

The NSG and China's opposition to India's entry in it has been in the news recently. Here's all you need to know about this body and India's position in it:

'What is NSG?

The NSG is an international organisation that aims to control proliferation of nuclear weapons. This 48-member body was established to prevent civilian nuclear trade from being used for military purposes. It was formed by the signatories to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Though the NSG has been open to admitting new members to its clan, the group has so far opened its doors only to nations that are part of the NPT or Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India has signed neither the NPT nor the CTBT.

Why was it formed and what was its objective?

The NSG was founded in reaction to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974. The main objective of the body, to begin with, was to make sure that the nuclear energy was used only for peaceful purposes and not for weapon-making.

India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan are among four UN member states which have not signed the NPT, the international pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Membership of NSG helps ease the transfer of technology, raw materials among the participant countries and US companies.

Where does India stand in the NSG?

In July 2006, the United States Congress amended US laws to allow civilian nuclear trade with India.

In 2008, the NSG participating governments agreed to grant India a "clean waiver" from its existing rules, which forbid nuclear trade with a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In November 2010, President Barack Obama announced US support to India's participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In January 2015, during his India visit, Obama said that India was ready for the NSG membership.

China's foreign ministry offered conditional support for Indian membership in the NSG.

Pakistan applied for the NSG membership in May 2016, probably to block India's entry into the group.

What is the recent development?

After world's superpowers gave a nod to India's entry into the nuclear group, China came out in the open to oppose the move.

Why is China opposing India's entry?

China has opposed India's bid to get NSG membership on the ground that it was yet to sign the NPT.

At the same time, China has been lobbying for Pakistan's entry into the group.

Benefits for India by getting NSG membership

The Times of India, Jun 11, 2016

No decision was taken on India's entry to the Nuclear Supplier's Group (NSG) at a meeting of its members in Vienna. While Switzerland and Mexico this week joined the US in supporting India's bid to become an NSG member, China is still fighting it tooth and nail. What is China afraid of and how will NSG membership help India? Here are 6 examples that show how India will benefit. After years of being in the doghouse for going nuclear - with the 1974 Pokhran test - India finally got some relief when the US relented and agreed to a civil nuclear deal with India in 2008. This made India eligible to receive advanced nuclear technologies that could be used to enrich uranium and/or reprocess plutonium. This has helped India a lot. However, such access is restricted to American technologies. Membership to the NSG will essentially increase India's access to state-of-the-art technology from the other 47 members of the Group, as well.

Being a member of the NSG will also mean that India will have far greater access to uranium than it does currently under its 2008 agreement with the US. For example, Namibia is the fourth-largest producer of uranium and it agreed to sell the nuclear fuel to India in 2009. However, that hasn't happened, as Namibia has since cited a 2009 African version of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Pelindaba Treaty, which essentially controls the supply of uranium from Africa to the rest of the world. If India joins the NSG, such reservations from Namibia are expected to melt away.

Libya's then foreign minister Omar Montasser signing the Pelindaba treaty on April 11, 1996. (Reuters photo) NSG membership also means India can begin to commercially produce nuclear power equipment, which it can then even sell to other countries. With access to state-of-the-art nuclear technologies, it can maximize its production benefits.

Shakti Sthal at Pokhran, the site of India's 1st nuclear test in 1974 and the 2nd one in 1998. (Reuters photo) Access to technology and being allowed to produce nuclear equipment will give a boost to the Make in India programme announced by PM Modi. That will boost economic growth in India, create more jobs and even lead to a whole new IT-industry segment that India can leverage.

With India committed to meeting its climate change goals by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, India needs to step up nuclear power production. NSG membership will help India greatly in doing so. In 2008, India did a get a one-time waiver from the NSG that allowed it to buy nuclear power plants from the global market. Still, being out of the elite NSG group has meant that many latest technologies are still out of its reach as it is the NSG members that have the latest and the most efficient technology.

Last but not least, if India gets NSG membership, it can prevent Pakistan from getting it, very similar to the manner in which China is blocking India from becoming a member.

India’s diplomatic efforts

The Times of India, Jun 3, 2016

Indrani Bagchi

India submitted its formal application for NSG membership on May 12, armed with over 200 documents, an exercise that culminated almost seven years of intensive engagement with the nuclear group.

With the NSG being an informal grouping whose decisions are based on consensus, India has walked an intensive diplomatic journey engaging stakeholders in a reprise of its efforts 8 years ago. While the core of the opposition to India's bid remains the same in 2016 as it was in 2008, a number of other countries have already swung in India's favour.

For instance, the Scandinavian countries who led a lot of the opposition in 2008, have been more supportive. PM reached out to Ireland in 2015 with his bilateral visit. He met with John Key, the New Zealand PM on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit in March, as well as sensitising the European and Belgian leadership. Austria, which was so reluctant in 2008 has been more understanding this time round. Foreign secretary S. Jaishankar made a quick trip to South Korea and Japan a few weeks ago to engage them. In the past few weeks, PM has reportedly made a number of calls to other NSG members. In the last few days before the meeting, he will personally reach out to the Swiss and Mexican leadership. Switzerland had been a big voice of opposition in 2008. No one is sure whether this will be enough. The US led the entire campaign to get a waiver for India in 2008, but while it has promised support this time, it's not the same. The US and China are more opposed to each other today than they were in 2008. No one is certain whether Obama would be willing to do the heavy lifting inside the group as Bush did. India is having to do a lot of the work itself, but this has been an easier exercise this time. For the past few years, India has assiduously worked through the points of objection by NSG and US. Since 2010 nuclear liability law slowed down US-India nuclear engagement. The nuclear deal itself could not be operationalised, neither could the remaining agreements between the two sides. India had also decided it wanted to enter all four non-proliferation regimes all at once, which meant slowdown in one affected all four. The Modi government, despite being nuclear sceptics, has moved fairly quickly. In January 2015, India and US signed an "understanding" on completing the nuclear deal, in order to begin unraveling the knotty legacy. The government closed the loop on the liability law by engaging the suppliers, working out a nuclear insurance pool that would help both operator (NPCIL) and suppliers cover their risk. They completed the administration arrangements with the US, the last remaining pact under the deal. India also completed the additional protocol and ratification of CSC. The government unbundled the applications - NSG and MTCR are priority, followed by Waasenaar and Australia Group. With the first US nuclear company, Westinghouse moving close to signing the first commercial contract for six reactors in Andhra Pradesh, India has checked all the boxes. India's keenness to join now has a lot to do with its quest for more clean energy in its energy mix as well as wanting to spark nuclear manufacturing and become a nuclear supplier. Confirming this, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar told journalists "We are looking at major expansion of domestic nuclear power sector and international collaboration. Getting us into the NSG would help facilitate nuclear trade. We want our own industry to be compliant With the existing global rules and regulations" which is done best if India is a member. "Merits of joining NSG derives from substantial expansion of nuclear energy segment," Jaishankar said. "We will also become serious nuclear exporter. We have a solid record, world is comfortable with us." Since the 2008 waiver, India, he said, had fulfilled all its promises to NSG and IAEA. In 2008, as now, India's opposition was centred in China, who influenced several countries, Austria, New Zealand and Ireland among them to remain as the last opposition to the waiver exercise. It took a midnight phone call from Condoleezza Rice to Chinese president Hu Jintao to bring back Chinese diplomats to the meeting which they had walked out of, and voted a reluctant 'yes'.

China is more aggressive this time, and along with asking Pakistan to apply for the same NSG membership has, in the past few weeks even linked NSG membership with India signing the NPT, knowing fully that India would only join it as a nuclear weapons state. On May 25, Pakistan's Ambassador to Austria Ayesha Riyaz in Vienna formally applied for Pakistan's membership of the NSG with a letter stating Pakistan's positive nuclear safety record and efforts to curb nuclear proliferation. Former Indian diplomat Sheel Kant Sharma wrote, "the Safeguards Agreement that China signed with the IAEA in 1988, INFCIRC/369, was a voluntary offer agreement along the lines of those done by the other P5 states i.e. nuclear weapon states. However, in contrast with other P5, China makes no mention of NPT in INFCIRC/369. ... China's subsequent agreement with the IAEA in 1998, which was an Additional Protocol to its 1988 safeguards agreement, even that makes no mention of NPT or China's commitment thereto. Thus even the legal commitments of China with the IAEA are bereft of any NPT reference while all other P5 make it a point to refer to the Treaty."

China's opposition to India is therefore a political one. Pakistan is not a serious contender, but it will depend on how far China is willing to take this. Also it's not clear what happens when China is the last man standing against India's membership. Ultimately, no one is certain how far the US is willing to push for India within the grouping. Jaishankar said on Friday, India had made a very good case for its membership, the NSG should accept it. This is about a lot more.

Should India have pushed for NSG membership ?

Raj Chengappa , NSG “India Today” 11/7/2016

Among the major criticisms levelled was that with India already getting a NSG waiver, there was no need to push so hard for what was being described as "second class membership" which didn't give it any new privileges. Satyabrata Pal, a seasoned former diplomat, wrote in The Hindu: "This tilting at the windmills of the NSG is manic, but it's not diplomacy, it's folly."

Pal's well-argued piece ignores several imperatives that India faced in its NSG membership quest. When Modi took over as prime minister in May 2014, despite the outstanding achievement of the Manmohan Singh government in ending India's pariah status in nuclear commerce, there was plenty of unfinished business. Overruling objections his party had about the Indo-US nuclear deal, Modi went about implementing the commitments and provisions with extraordinary commitment and zeal, and needs to be commended for his bipartisan approach.

Top among the priorities was to speed up India's bid to become a member of all the key restraint regimes, including the NSG, that had been put in place to slow down or block India's efforts to develop a defence against weapons of mass destruction. In November 2010, US President Barack Obama had promised Manmohan Singh that the US would work towards making India a full member of the NSG apart from the other three restraining regimes: the MTCR, the Australia Group (to control the spread of chemical and biological weapons) and the Wassenaar Arrangement (export controls for dual use goods and technologies).

Modi's team found that while the Manmohan Singh government had worked towards becoming a member of all the four restraint regimes from 2011 onwards, its efforts had been bogged down for various reasons. As a senior MEA official said, "It was a policy choice then, but we took on more than we could chew. All four regimes required particular administrative and legal measures, fulfilling which required a humongous effort among several ministries. As a result it became almost mission impossible."

So rather than pursue all four at the same time, Modi's team decided to prioritise their moves, putting the NSG and MTCR membership at the top of the list. On NSG, among their concerns was that while in 2008 the UPA-I government had claimed that the NSG had given it a "clean waiver", that status was altered three years later when UPA-II was in power. In 2011, the NSG revised and updated its guidelines for all members to prohibit trade in enrichment and reprocessing technology with any country that had not signed the NPT. Since India had refused to sign the NPT since its inception in 1968, calling it "unfair and discriminatory", the amendment was clearly targeted at Delhi.

After India protested, the US, Russia and France issued statements that they stood by their agreements to provide India "full nuclear fuel cycle" cooperation irrespective of the NSG guidelines. But as an official points out, "It should have been a wake-up call for the then policymakers that the NSG could alter its rules and we would be forced to adhere to it. It was imperative that we move into the living room where decisions were being made rather than wait in the verandah and be told what we can or cannot do."

Why couldn’t the UPA-II do it ?

Raj Chengappa , NSG “India Today” 11/7/2016

Modi was advised to pull out all stops to get NSG membership. For that, Obama had to fulfil his commitment and get the US administration to do the heavy lifting as they did in 2008. Given the preoccupations of the UPA-II in the final years of its reign, Indo-US relations had experienced a drift. Shedding any personal hurt he harboured against the US for denying him a visa since the 2002 Gujarat riots, Modi brought the mojo back into Indo-US relations by quickly establishing a personal rapport with Obama in his first meeting with him in September 2014. Modi hardsold his regime as more open to do business with. American companies told him that they had hoped that after the Indo-US nuclear deal they could sell nuclear plants to India, making the deal a win-win for both countries. But their efforts were stymied because of the problems posed by the new Indian nuclear liability law that was passed by Parliament in 2010.

When he returned from the US, Modi convened a team of the external affairs, finance and law ministries to overcome the problem. India's new liability law had put the onus of any failure of a nuclear plant on the manufacturers, including payment of heavy compensation. The US saw red, as did Russia and France, who were also negotiating to set up new nuclear power reactors in India. They pointed out that it didn't conform to existing international norms on liability. Even private domestic nuclear plant manufacturers were dissuaded by the new law. So Modi's team worked to find a way to overcome the vexatious liability clause without amending the law. The government did that by setting up a special Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool of Rs 1,500 crore in July 2015 that took care of the liability concerns of both foreign and domestic nuclear plant suppliers.

There were two other issues with the US that Modi addressed. Under the Indo-US nuclear deal, India had agreed to designate civilian and military nuclear power plants and put the civilian ones under safeguards. In December 2014, India complied by putting the two remaining civilian plants that had been identified under IAEA safeguards. Then to demonstrate proof of its commitment to non-proliferation in January 2015, India joined an expert group to discuss how to move the stalled UN-sponsored Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations in Geneva forward.

Why the urgency to get NSG membership now ?

Raj Chengappa , NSG “India Today” 11/7/2016

"It was not a summer madness," as a senior MEA official put it. The quest for NSG membership became urgent because of two major but unrelated reasons: the Paris climate change summit and the fact that Obama's presidency would end in December 2016. At the climate change summit in November 2015, India was initially regarded as the problem as it was refusing to commit to reduction in its reliance on fossil fuel like coal for energy. Modi boldly turned the tables and made India a part of the solution. Instead of dragging his feet, Modi proactively committed that by 2030, India would raise the share of clean energy from non-fossil fuels to 40 per cent of the total. He then outlined an international solar alliance to evolve cheaper and more efficient technology to harness solar energy.

Yet more than solar energy, Modi and his team were calculating that the massive increase in nuclear power would enable India to meet the targets. Nuclear power now generates around 6,000 MW and constitutes only three per cent of India's total power. Modi had outlined an aggressive plan to ramp up nuclear power generation to 63,000 MW by 2032, pushing its share of the total to 9 per cent. So apart from sanctioning 16 new domestic power plants that would generate an additional 10,600 MW, the Modi government planned to enter into tie-ups with foreign companies from the US, Russia and France for 26 new power plants that would generate 29,500 MW.

To fulfil such an ambitious target, both Indian and foreign companies needed finance and technological tie-ups. For that, international investors required stability in policy as well as to ensure that there was no change in the rules of the game. Large players in the nuclear business like Europe, Korea and Japan said they would be more comfortable if India became a member-it would be easier to make investment commitments. Membership of the NSG had become a necessity for India. "NSG membership was like the triple AAA rating for investors", as an official put it. Also, by linking its climate change goals to NSG membership, India was putting additional pressure on major countries to push its case.

Meanwhile, Indian policymakers watched with increasing concern, the race for the next US presidency. Against all odds, the maverick Donald Trump, with his bellicose statements and charges against all and sundry, was gaining ground and would go on to win the Republican nomination. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton struggled to beat her rival Bernie Sanders for the Democrats' nomination. All this added to India's uncertainty. Rather than wait for the next president, Modi and his team decided they should push through India's bid this year itself while Obama was still at the helm. After all, he had promised to secure India's NSG membership. "In a way, we had no choice, events forced the timing-we had to go the NSG plenary in June," says an official.

Did India do its homework before applying ?

Raj Chengappa , NSG “India Today” 11/7/2016

In October 2015, when Ambassador Rafael Marianno Grossi of Argentina, then chair of NSG, came for his annual review, India sought his advice on how best to apply for membership. Grossi advised that before making a formal application they should talk to members and check out the concerns they may raise and then make a formal presentation to them about how India was addressing the issues they raised.

In April this year, when the NSG Consultation Group was to meet in Vienna, India wrote a letter to all members requesting that it be permitted to make a presentation. When the NSG met, China stiffly opposed such a move, stating, there is "no consensus on India's membership, so no presentation." An Indian official present described it as a "Catch 22 situation-we can't start the process till we have a consensus, and we can't work for a consensus till we have a process". However, Australia bypassed the Chinese protest by hosting an event on the margins and India presented its case.

When the MEA team returned to Delhi, they did a reality check as to where the 48 members stood. In their assessment they had 24 yea-sayers, while many others were either quiet or wanted some criteria for membership. Only a handful appeared opposed to the idea. If India's bid had to be taken seriously, it needed more than just a simple majority. Decisions in the NSG are taken by consensus and even one dissenting member could block a resolution. So the MEA deployed secretary-level officers as envoys to go and brief all the NSG members.

It was also decided that Sushma Swaraj, the Union minister for external affairs, and the prime minister would be requested to speak to select ministers and heads of state. By the end of the process, Swaraj had personally called her counterparts in 26 countries. And the prime minister had spoken to 12 heads of states in addition to making it a point to include in his travel plans countries like Ireland, Switzerland and Mexico where he made a personal request to back India's NSG bid. Answering criticism as to why Modi had raised the pitch, an official defended his action, saying, "It is unfair to say the PM was making a huge show for publicity-in his mind he was willing to go the extra distance for the good of the country."

On May 10, Jaishankar formally presented to Grossi, the NSG chair, India's 300-page application seeking admission into the NSG and requested that it be considered at the annual plenary meeting to be held in Seoul from June 20-24. A fortnight later, Pakistan also put in a formal application for admission into the NSG. It was evident that Pakistan had China's backing. But as compared to India, Pakistan had no credentials to show that it was a responsible member of the nuclear fraternity. Its top nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, had been charged with selling nuclear secrets to North Korea and Iran. Unlike India, it had not separated its civilian reactors from military ones or adhered to various key protocols the IAEA had mandated. Pakistan's application to the NSG was seen by the rest of the members as China's effort to either block India's chances or to push Pakistan through by hyphenating it with India's application. India knew it had a big fight on its hands.

Why 2016 was different from the 2008 NSG success ?

Raj Chengappa , NSG “India Today” 11/7/2016

The Modi government has been criticised for the "ham-handed" way it handled the NSG membership bid, and it is now being contrasted with the way Manmohan Singh and his team went about "quietly" winning support. It is not as if there was no hype or hoopla around the UPA-I bid to secure a waiver. There was stiff opposition from the coalition partners that finally saw the Left break away, accusing the prime minister of being a pawn of the US.

China had opposed India then too but not as overtly as it is doing now. In 2008, China told India privately that it would not oppose India's waiver if India got the support of all the other members. What tilted the balance was when George Bush called up Hu Jintao and requested him to back India. The Chinese smarted at the call but went along with the consensus.

What has changed since 2008 for China? China in 2016, for one, is a vastly different beast. Since taking over from Hu in 2013, Xi Jinping has outlined a far more robust foreign policy. Gone is the caution that defined the Hu era. This is most evident in China's ties with the US. A central theme of Xi's diplomacy is "building a new type of great power relations" with the US, which implies, even if not explicitly, that China now sees both countries as equals in a league of their own. Beijing is ready to stand up to the US in ways it wasn't quite prepared to do earlier, and the US no longer has the leverage with China it once had-a transformation Delhi needed to appreciate.

For many in China, the pressure from Washington in 2008 to allow the exception for India at the NSG still rankles. "For the waiver in 2008, the US worked very hard and finally succeeded in getting India treated as an exceptional case. Would that work today? I am not sure," Zhao Gancheng, a senior strategic expert and director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told india today. The Indian team was conscious of the new international realities and in 2016 did a lot of the heavy lifting by itself rather than as one official put it, "outsourcing it to America". Also, they were aware that they had to confront a far more aggressive China which if still not able to shape the international order was strong enough to be what an expert called "a blocking power".

The other big shift in China's diplomacy is that Beijing appears to have gone all-in when it comes to its "all-weather" ally, Pakistan. Gone is the attempt-or pretence, some would argue-of seeking a balance in ties with India. In Beijing, Pakistan is increasingly described as China's only ally. Over the past few years, coinciding with Xi's rise, Chinese state media have taken to referring to Pakistan as "ba tie", or "iron brother".

Xi has made an economic corridor to Pakistan a central feature of his pet Silk Road initiative, planning roads and energy projects in a corridor that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir despite India's protestations. What is worrying for India is that perhaps for the first time in more than a decade, China's policies are being shaped by Pakistani considerations. "The irony is," one senior diplomat put it, "they are re-hyphenating us with Pakistan at a time when we have finally de-hyphenated China and Pakistan." This was also evident in the NSG.

To secure China's support, President Pranab Mukherjee was asked to request Xi's cooperation when he met him during his visit in the last week of May. Jaishankar, who accompanied him, also spoke to his Chinese counterpart and the foreign minister. It is learnt that China conveyed the message that "we may not be open about an NSG membership for India but we are not closed either". The foreign secretary then made a secret visit to Beijing, days before the NSG was to meet in Seoul, something india today was the first to reveal. It is learnt that China told Jaishankar, "We are prepared to look at accommodating India. But it can't only be about India in the long run." China was clear: We are willing to let you in but you should not come in the way of Pakistan's entry. China's concern was that once India was in the NSG, it would block Pakistan's chances.

For India, this was the opening it was looking for. Modi's team was confident that if criteria were laid down for entry into the NSG, India was in an excellent position to qualify. They were also aware that Pakistan, with its poor track record stood little chance of gaining entry until it cleaned up its act. Moreover, as some nations pointed out, it was better to check Pakistan's nuclear ambitions by dangling the NSG membership as a carrot.

So it was a confident Swaraj who, in her annual press conference in Delhi a day before the NSG met at Seoul, asserted "China is not blocking India's entry to the NSG. It is only talking about criteria and procedures. I am hopeful that we would be able to convince China to support our entry to the NSG." As far as the Pakistan application was concerned, she said, India being a non-member has no comment, but clarified that "we will not oppose entry of any nation to NSG" and "each country should be considered on the basis of their merit.

Countries supporting and opposing India

US support

The Times of India, Jun 22, 2016

Chidanand Rajghatta

The Obama administration again put its weight behind India's admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, calling on member sates to support New Delhi's application even as China, the main hurdle, appeared to soften its position. The administration used both its White House and state department pulpits to voice its support for India's membership as the 48-country cartel began its plenary session in Seoul. "India is ready for membership. And the United States calls on participating governments to support India's application," President Barack Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest said at his daily briefing.

"We continue to call — and nothing's changed about our position — on participating governments of NSG to support India's application at the plenary session this week in Seoul," echoed state department spokesperson John Kirby. He said India's application is "something about which we have routinely talked to other NSG members", and it is "not a new topic of discussion that we've had privately with the members," suggesting that Washington had done its spadework and left it to New Delhi to convince Beijing, believed to be the lone, or at least the principle, holdout. Earnest said the White House has made its views known both publicly and privately, and "we'll continue to do so in advance of the meeting this week," indicating that President Obama might still weigh in if needed. "Participating governments will need to reach a consensus decision in order to admit any applicant into the group. And the US will certainly be advocating for India's membership," he said.

In Beijing, Chinese spokespersons and government proxies went into contortions to explain their opposition to India's bid, sometimes pointing to the "principle" of only signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty being entertained as members, and pointing to the US for setting up the rule. "The door is open for the admission of the non-NPT members. It is never closed. But the members of the NSG should stay focused on whether the criteria should be changed and whether non-NPT members should be admitted into the NSG," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a media briefing on Tuesday, indicating that Beijing is open to negotiations on the issue. Some sources have suggested that eventually it will boil down to a modus vivendi between Washington, Beijing and New Delhi to make an accommodation through back channel talks that will include finessing positions about their respective roles in Asia Pacific, South China Sea and the Indian Ocean Region. This is not just about NSG membership; it will be about a lot more, sources said.

US asks NSG members to support India

The Times of India, Jun 21, 2016

The US asked the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to consider and support India's application to join the grouping during their plenary meeting in Seoul. "We believe, and this has been US policy for some time, that India is ready for membership and the United States calls on participating governments to support India's application at the plenary session of NSG later this week," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference. "At same time, participating governments will need to reach a consensus decision in order to admit any applicant into the group, and the United States will certainly be advocating for India's membership," Earnest said on the eve of the 48-member grouping's plenary meeting in Seoul. His comments came after China has said that India's membership is not on the agenda of the NSG meeting. US President Barack Obama, Earnest said, had an opportunity to discuss this issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was at the White House early this month, he said. "The United States, as you know, strongly supports India's application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group," Earnest said. "We have made our views known both publicly and privately, and we'll continue to do so in advance of the meeting this week," Earnest said when asked if the US has reached out to members of the NSG in support of India's application. At a separate news conference, the State Department reiterated the same. "As you know, during Prime Minister Modi's visit, the President welcomed India's application to join the NSG and reaffirmed that India is ready for membership. We continue to call on the participating governments, the NSG, to support India's application at the plenary session this week itself," State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference.

Canada supports India

The Times of India, June 20, 2016

Sachin Parashar

NSG will be strengthened if India joins: Canada


Canada has said the presence of India in the exclusive nuclear club will actually strengthen the Group’s export controls

Canada had entered into a civil nuclear agreement with India based on the 2008 clean waiver to India

Canada’s acting high commissioner Jess Dutton has said Canada is trying to create consensus on India's entry to NSG

At a time when questions are being raised about India's non-proliferation credentials, one of world's leading proponents of the international non-proliferation regime, Canada, has come out openly in support of India saying that the presence of India in the exclusive nuclear club will actually strengthen the Group's export controls. Ahead of the NSG plenary later this week in Seoul, Canada also said that it was encouraging all NSG members to join in the consensus needed to achieve this objective "at the earliest possible date. "India's role in international nuclear commerce is bound to keep growing in strength as the size of India's fleet of nuclear power plant, already one of the world`s largest, rapidly increases, Canada's acting high commissioner Jess Dutton Monday told TOI. "As such, we believe India's membership in the NSG will reinforce the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, he added. Dutton's remarks to TOI came on a day China claimed that the issue of India's NSG membership wasn't even on the agenda for the Seoul meeting of the 48-nation Group. Dutton said Canada was working actively to create a consensus for India's membership. "The NSG stands to benefit from the active participation of Indian technical specialists in helping the Group strengthen the international control of nuclear goods and technologies and help strengthen domestic controls on nuclear exports, said Dutton, adding that India was ready to become an active member of NSG. Canada entered into a civil nuclear agreement with India based on the 2008 clean waiver to India by the NSG for nuclear trade despite New Delhi not having signed NPT. Canada is now a significant source of uranium for India. Unlike in the case with a few other members of the Group who had supported India in 2008, Canada's support to India and its acknowledgement of India's non-proliferation credentials remain unwavering despite it regarding NPT as the mainstay of its policy to promote disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

"Given its nuclear non-proliferation credentials, we believe India has demonstrated that it is ready to become an active and constructive member of the NSG. We strongly encourage all NSG members to join in the consensus needed to achieve this objective, at the earliest possible date, said Dutton. Canada's voice carries a lot of weight with many other members of NSG who regularly profess commitment to NPT as the cornerstone of their disarmament and non-proliferation policies. Canada was also one of the 7 original members of NSG which itself was formed in 1975 as a reaction to India's nuclear testing the previous year. The plutonium which India used for its 1974 nuclear test was sourced from a reactor supplied by Canada.

Canada is also an important member of the Vienna Group of Ten, a group of 10 "like-minded countries who work together on issues related to NPT and all of which are members of NSG. At least 3 members of this Group - New Zealand, Austria and Ireland - are said to have reservations about allowing India as a non NPT signatory into the NSG. In the NSG meeting though in Vienna earlier this month, some of these countries were said to have relented a bit as they sought a process for inclusion of non-NPT states and not a one-time exception for any country. Dutton said Canada had been a strong supporter of Indian membership in the NSG for many years and had been actively engaged in efforts to create the consensus required to allow India to join the Group. "We welcomed India`s recent application for membership, as well as its formal adherence to the NSG Guidelines in mid-May of this year," he said.

Swiss flip flop

The Times of India, June 7, 2016

Sheila Mathrani & Indrani Bagchi

Swiss back India's pitch for NSG seat

Switzerland had been less than enthusiastic in the past about India's NSG candidacy. Its support adds to the ranks of India-backers who implicitly reject China's argument that non-signatories of nonproliferation treaty, meaning India and Pakistan, be considered on a par. We promised India support in its efforts to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the process has started," the Swiss President said.

However, noting that NPT is never far from their minds, Schneider-Ammann said they wanted everyone to sign the NPT. But this is a stand that Switzerland has held for many years. India's request has been that Switzerland's support to India's NSG membership is not at odds with its non-proliferation commitments. The terms of the India-US nuclear deal that separates India's strategic and civil nuclear energy programmes, acceptance of international safeguards for non-military installations and a unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests are seen to bolster the argument that making India part of NSG will strengthen, not weaken, non-proliferation.

India and Switzerland also agreed to support each other's bid for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council. India has pitched for a UNSC non-permanent membership in 2021, while Switzerland wants to be there in 2023.

Both nations have decided to restart free-trade negotiations with EFTA countries - Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. State secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch will visit India this week in this connection.

Switzerland takes U-turn on its support to India's NSG bid

Taking a U-turn from its earlier stand, Switzerland on Friday joined the group of countries opposing India's bid for NSG. This is a shocker for India as the country had pledged full support to India's bid when Prime Minister Modi visited the country

China’s game

The Times of India, Jun 27, 2016

Shailaja Neelakantan

Fact 1 : India isn't a member of the elite 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), but arch-rival China is.

Fact 2 : India is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), but arch-rival China isn't.

Fact 3 : Both countries want what they don't have.

And therein lies a tale.

China desperately wants into the MTCR and it very likely opposed India's NSG bid for that reason - a quid pro quo. "Allow us into the MTCR and we will not oppose India's entry into the NSG", might well have been what China was whispering into ears that mattered.

China's proliferation record

Consider that in 2004, China applied for MTCR membership but was denied it because members considered its non-proliferation record dodgy.

"They're not there yet", a U.S. government official told Arms Control Today (ACT) in October, 2004, about China's eligibility. (Arms Control Today is a publication of the US-based non-partisan organization Arms Control Association.) MTRC members were concerned that Chinese entities continued to provide sensitive technologies to countries developing ballistic missiles, such as North Korea, the publication said. And since the MTRC aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems - that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks - selling to

North Korea is a definite no-no

Weeks before the October 2004 meeting, the US imposed proliferation sanctions on eight Chinese companies, ACT reported. "One of those, Xinshidai, was specifically accused of missile proliferation. The others, two of which the Bush administration previously penalized for missile proliferation, were punished for unspecified deals with Iran..." ACT reported.

China in the NSG

Interestingly, that very year, in May 2004, China gained membership to the NSG, despite the opposition by several US lawmakers - both Republicans and Democrats - who were overruled by US President George W Bush. One Republican lawmaker called China one of the world's "principal sinners" when it comes to proliferation, and a Democrat said he had a "deep distrust" of China. In retrospect, it appears that the refusal to give China MTCR membership was an attempt to set the nuclear balance right, what with China having gained NSG membership earlier that year.

India's MTRC gains

MTCR membership will enable India to buy high-end missile technology and also enhance its joint ventures with Russia, specifically the BrahMos. A few countries, including Vietnam, have already shown interest in buying Brahmos. India will also be able to buy surveillance drones from other countries like the American Predator drones. In addition, the US, too, might consider exporting to India Unmanned Aerial Vehicles like the Reaper and the Global Hawk. A senior US administration official said about India: Membership of MTCR "permits India to continue to advance its non-proliferation leadership in the world and contribute to that regime, to limit missile proliferation in the world".

China promises 'constructive role'

The Times of India, June 22, 2016

Will play 'constructive role' in India's NSG bid: China

China said it will play a "constructive" role in the discussions on India's bid for membership of the 48-member NSG but at the same maintained that the issue was not on the agenda of the NSG meeting in Seoul.

China rebuts India's France NPT argument

The Times of India, May 23, 2016

NSG membership: China rebuts India's France argument

China rebutted India's assertion that France was included in the Nuclear Suppliers Group without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, saying France was a founder member of the elite group and so the issue of accepting its membership does not arise. China says No, links India's NSG case with North Korea and Iran Despite PM reaching out to China, deadlock continues on India's NSG bid

From linkage to blockage

Raj Chengappa , NSG “India Today” 11/7/2016

When Jaishankar and Amandeep Singh Gill, the MEA joint secretary in charge of nuclear affairs, flew in to Seoul for the NSG plenary, they were confident that if China kept its word India would be through. But they were not taking any chances. They divided the NSG members into five groups: the core group of supporters included the US, Russia, Japan, Canada, the UK, Germany and Australia, who would not only back India but were willing to persuade others to come on board. Then there was a "wider support group" consisting largely of East European countries, Central Asia and some from Western Europe like the Netherlands and Belgium. Together, these groups totalled 38 of the 48 countries.

Of the remaining 10 countries, the third group consisted of six countries, including Brazil, Switzerland and Turkey, that believed in what was termed the "soft process". These countries were willing to back India at the meeting if the NSG simultaneously agreed upon criteria for admitting non-NPT members like India and Pakistan. The fourth group consisted of three members-Austria, New Zealand and Ireland-who were categorised as wanting the "hard process". They were not opposed to India's bid but wanted to get the sequencing right-maintaining that the criteria should be fixed first before the Indian or any other application could be considered. China was unique in its opposition and was classified as a Group of 1. It was willing only if Pakistan's application was also considered. But within a day China changed its stand when it found that very few NSG members wanted Pakistan's case to be considered. The estimate was that 46 members opposed Pakistan and only two, China and Turkey, were supportive.

When China realised that there was stiff opposition to Pakistan's application, it changed its stand from "linkage to blockage", as an Indian official put it. China first pursued procedural tactics and told the chair, now headed by South Korea, that India's application was not on the agenda and couldn't be discussed. India's supporters hit back by forcing the chair to agree to a discussion. It was then that China turned the tables on India. South Korea needed China's backing to come out strongly against North Korea's nuclear shenanigans. As a quid pro quo, China persuaded South Korea into passing a killer decision: There would be a discussion on India's application but no decision in this meeting.

The moment the chair decided the norms, India knew its chances to be admitted in this round were close to nil. Nevertheless, Modi raised the stakes by requesting Xi in his meeting with him on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Tashkent, to consider India's case for the NSG in a "fair" and "objective" manner. Meanwhile, with no decision in sight, some nations that had pledged support to India, talked of evolving criteria to permit non-NPT members, a development China cited as indicative of other members' opposition.

It also gave China the opportunity to put out its maximalist position: Unless a nation signs the NPT, it should not be admitted as a member. This was a no-no for India. Instead, India pointed out that the NSG stipulates that a member needs to "adhere" to the NPT rules but does not explicitly state that it should be a member. India pointed out that in 2008 when the NSG had given its waiver, India had agreed to the widest possible implementation of the NPT provisions and had already proven its credentials.

Knowing that waiting for the next year's NSG plenary could create fresh problems, India then lobbied hard to keep the door open for it. Mexico pushed for Argentina's Grossi, the outgoing chairperson, to head an informal panel to evolve a consensus on how to proceed with India's application. India is hoping that this winter will bring it some nuclear contentment. When contacted by india today, Jaishankar remained cautious and said, "The door remains open and we will stay the course."

While India came out with a tough statement, singling out China for its opposition, the MEA later toned down the rhetoric. Rather than demonise China, the strategy was to use persuasion. In his interview to a television channel, Modi didn't reveal any bitterness and instead said, "Foreign policy is not about changing mindsets. It is about finding common ground and where our interests converge and how much." The fallout of the NSG issue on the bilateral relationship is still uncertain. In the past, India and China have largely succeeded in compartmentalising problems such as the boundary issue to keep relations on an even keel. In truth, India's leverage on this front is limited. Two-way trade which touched $71 billion last year is heavily skewed in China's favour, with the deficit reaching $51 billion.

What is clear is that playing the trade card would also come at a price: the Narendra Modi government has worked overtime to turn around investor sentiment in China after a decade of lukewarm response. Beijing is going forward in a big way with infrastructure projects that India needs, from massive solar plants in Andhra Pradesh to energy parks in Gujarat. Investments in 2015 were double the total amount of the past decade.

Overall, Jaishankar remains sanguine that India's membership would get through saying, "We will continue to use reason and our powers of persuasion to win NSG member nations over including China."

2019: China continues to block India

Saibal Dasgupta, China signals it will continue to block India from NSG, January 31, 2019: The Times of India

China signalled on Wednesday that it would continue to block India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group despite the special rapport struck between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinjing during the past three meetings starting with the Wuhan talks in April 2018.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said there should be no double standards in the application of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. China feels that countries like India, which have not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), should not be admitted to the NSG.

India is not a signatory to the NPT but believes that it has the right to enter the NSG on the basis of its clean nonproliferation record.

“We believe we should conduct wide consultations and look for practical measures by opposing double standards in enforcing the treaty,” Geng said without directly mentioning India. The statement comes at the start of a meeting in Beijing of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to discuss issues related to nuclear disarmament.

“We believe we should enhance its authority and effectiveness, universality and do a better job in preventing nuclear proliferation,” Geng said. “We believe that the international community should stick to multilateralism and promote the three pillars, namely non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” he said.

Some observers believe that China would try to keep India out of the NSG as long as its close ally, Pakistan, is regarded as unsuitable for NSG membership.

The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear and nuclear-related exports.

Pakistan’s efforts against India

The Times of India, June 21, 2016

Pak claims 'success' in thwarting India's NSG bid

Pakistan Prime Minister's adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, said on Tuesday that Islamabad was "making successful efforts" against New Delhi's bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Pakistan has a strong case to gain NSG membership on merit

Either Pakistan is lying or China is

The Times of India, Jun 23, 2016

Shyam Balasubramanian

Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for his government's support for Islamabad's bid at membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). However, Hussain's comment flies straight in the face of the Chinese position on the issue. The Chinese government-run Global Times newspaper had carried an article on Tuesday, opposing the entry of both India and Pakistan to the NSG, a line at odds with the Pakistan President's talk of support from Beijing. Hussain and Xi met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Tashkent, on a day the Chinese President is also set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "Only granting India the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group will shift the balance of power," Hussain said, reported Pakistani news outlet Geo TV. China has maintained its opposition to India's NSG membership bid on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Neither is Pakistan.

China has been walking a very fine line against India's membership to the NSG, and has found itself increasingly isolated. Not only has India lobbied the NSG nations, but the US too has thrown its heft behind New Delhi. While the basis of India's membership bid has been its clean non-proliferation record, US officials revealed on Wednesday that Pakistan continues to proliferate nuclear materials and technology to North Korea. China's stand against India has also focused on its questions over the future of the world's nuclear order, if 'illegitimate' nuclear states like India or Pakistan are allowed to join the global nuclear trading regime. Even as it has said all this, Beijing has repeatedly stated its official line, that China does not oppose India's bid for membership to the NSG. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device.

China’s pyrrhic victory: China 4 vs. India 44

The Times of India, Jun 30, 2016

China pulls up chief negotiator for limited global support for anti-India position at NSG

The Chinese leadership has pulled up Wang Qun, its lead negotiator and Director General of the Arms Control Division at the Foreign Ministry, for failing to drum up significant global support for China's position in Seoul which blocked India's entry into the NSG .

Highly placed Western and Chinese sources said that Wang Qun had told Beijing that at least one third of the NSG nations would endorse China's position. However, the position was totally in the reverse, with as many as 44 nations backing India and China only having the support of four nations.

UNCLOS: Philippines vs. China in the South China Sea

Beijing now fears that the fallout of the NSG outcome could have an impact on a crucial verdict expected soon from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in a case brought by the Philippines concerning China's territorial reclamation activities in the South China Sea .

As things stand, Beijing's stance flies in the face of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of which it is a signatory. China's big fear now is India could use the same ploy that Beijing used in Seoul at the NSG plenary and back The Hague Court's decision which is likely to go against China.

Highly-placed sources said that the global support for India's position at the NSG could well be leveraged by New Delhi to back the enforcement of The Hague Judgment - a scenario which could isolate China and could even trigger its exit from UNCLOS.

China has launched a worldwide propaganda campaign enlisting academics, legal experts, diplomats and foreign governments stating that such legal proceedings are invalid. But this position of China's is contrary to the rules laid out by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of which China is a signatory. China claims that it has the support of 60 nations who believe that arbitration at The Hague is illegal.

China's worry now is that post its inability to generate global support for its anti-India position on NSG at Seoul, its position at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague could meet the same fate, and this time, it could have to pay a very heavy price.

Australia Group

2018: India joins 'Australia Group'

Boost for NSG membership, as India gains entry into 'Australia Group', January 19, 2018: The Times of India


India is now a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement as well as Australia Group

India has managed entry into all three groups despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty

China has made attempts to stonewall India's bid to enter these groups

India became a member of the 'Australia Group' (AG), a move that is expected to raise New Delhi's stature in the field of non-proliferation and also help it acquire critical technologies.

India is now a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime+ (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement+ (WA) as well as AG, three of four non-proliferation regimes. The only one remaining is the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India has managed entry into all three groups despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and despite China's attempts to stonewall its bid to enter the NSG.

AG is a cooperative and voluntary group of countries working to counter the spread of materials, equipment and technologies that could contribute to the development or acquisition of chemical and biological weapons by states or terrorist groups. In December, India gained entry into WA. In June last year, India joined the MTCR, another key export control regime, as a full member.

Significantly, China, which stonewalled India's entry into the 48-nation NSG is not a member of the WA or the MTCR, both of which play a significant role in promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.

Since its civil nuclear deal with the US, India has been trying to get into export control regimes such as the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement that regulate the conventional, nuclear, biological and chemicals weapons and technologies.

See also

Nuclear energy: India

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