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Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and India‚

  Jun 10, 2020

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and India’s Membership

Why in news?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a pitch for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in New York in September 2019.

Who are the NSG countries?

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear - those with nuclear technology for civilian or civilian and military purposes,  countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment, and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

What are its features?

  • NSG was established in the wake of the Pokhran I peaceful nuclear explosion conducted by India in 1974.
  • NSG is not an international treaty. It is a group of “nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to nonproliferation of nuclear weapons through implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.”
  • Membership of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is only a guideline, a consideration, and not a mandatory requirement while deciding on a country's application.
  • NSG consists of 48 members which include the five nuclear weapon states US, UK, France, China, and Russia. 
  • It is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.
  • Decisions, including on membership, are made by consensus

India is not a member of NSG. Why?

  • Opposition from countries like China as India has not signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 
  • The current guidelines of NSG state that a non-NPT state cannot become a member of NSG which keeps India out of the group.

What is the NPT? 

  • NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) is an international treaty, which came into force in 1970. The main objective was to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.Apart from India, Pakistan and Israel have also not signed NPT.India refused to sign NPT because,
  1. The NPT defines “nuclear weapons states” as those that tested devices before 1967, which means India cannot ever be a member while having a nuclear weapon as India tested in 1974. 
  2. No fixed timelines have been mentioned for disarmament by the nuclear weapon countries 
  3. NPT is unfair treaty as nuclear weapon states have no obligation to give them up while non-nuclear states are not allowed to have them.
  • India conducted its first Nuclear test -Pokhran-I (Smiling Buddha), in 1974.
  • The nuclear powers were convinced that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) alone would not halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Consequently, NSG was formed in 1974.
  • The current guidelines of NSG state that a non-NPT state cannot become a member of NSG which keeps India out of the group.
  • In 1998 India conducted the second nuclear Test (Operation Shakti).
  • India is committed to voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. It has taken voluntary measures to ensure strong nuclear export control.
  • India was given a waiver and US  agreed to a civil nuclear deal with India in 2008. (123 Agreement) Under this, India signed a civil-military separation plan and India-IAEA safeguard agreement: civilian nuclear reactors can be inspected by IAEA.In return, US diplomacy helped us to get NSG waiver.
  • During a state visit to India in November 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama announced U.S. support for India’s participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime
  • India has taken a formal pledge stating that it would not share sensitive nuclear technology or material with others and would uphold its voluntary moratorium on testing nuclear weapons.
  • Due to which 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). This made India eligible to receive advanced nuclear technologies that could be used to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium. This has helped India a lot.
  • However, being out of the elite NSG group has kept India still out of latest technologies 
  • also, it is only a waiver and can be reversed
  • In 2016 India applied for NSG membership. 

What is China’s position?

  • While a majority of the 48-member group backed India’s membership, China along with New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria were opposed to India’s admission.
  • China insisted that India should sign NPT for NSG membership. It wants a non-discriminatory criterion for the admission of countries who have not signed NPT. China’s resistance is to facilitate the entry of Pakistan a close ally of China.
  • But Pakistan’s credentials for NSG membership are highly flawed and inadequate. On the other hand, over the years India has shown adherence to IAEA safeguards and has taken voluntary measures to abide by NPT and NSG guidelines while Pakistan has not taken any such initiatives.
  • Finally, China has stated that India's membership will ''jeopardise'' China's national interests and touch a ''raw nerve'' in Pakistan.

What is India’s Response?

  • Since all decisions at NSG are taken by consensus, any country, small or big, can stand in the way of a consensus. India has therefore launched a blitzkrieg of hectic diplomatic activity to explain its position, allay fears and overcome the opposition of a few countries which might still have concerns.
  • India has also reached out to China directly to explain that its interest in NSG membership is not guided by any political or strategic considerations but only to facilitate the expansion of its clean and green nuclear energy programme. 

Why is it Important for India to be an NSG member?

  • Membership to the NSG will essentially increase India’s access to state-of-the-art technology from the other members of the Group.
  • Access to technology and being allowed to produce nuclear equipment and trade internally will give a boost to the Make in India program. That will, in turn, boost the economic growth of our country.
  • As per India’s INDC under the Paris Climate agreement, we have committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources. In order to achieve this target, we need to scale up nuclear power production. This can only happen if India gains access to the NSG.
  • 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 signed 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 wont take place.
  • Membership of the NSG will provide greater certainty and a legal foundation for India's nuclear regime and thus greater confidence for those countries investing billions of dollars to set up ambitious nuclear power projects in India. 
  • Moreover, as India’s international political, economic, military and strategic profile and clout increases, India would like to move into the category of international rule-creating nations rather than stay in the ranks of rule-adhering nations. For this, it is essential that India gets due recognition and a place on the NSG high table.

What factors are in favor of India’s membership?

  • France got membership in the elite group without signing the NPT.
  • Commitment to nonproliferation: India’s commitment to bifurcate its civilian and military nuclear programs along with its nonproliferation record ensured indigenously developed technology is not shared with other countries.
  • Transparency: India has also ratified an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which means that its civilian reactors are under IAEA safeguards and open for inspections.