Obama Admin defends decision to back India's NSG membership

Obama Admin defends decision to back India's NSG membership

The Obama Administration has strongly defended its decision to back India's membership in the NSG, rebutting a known anti-India Senator who opposed the move.

"The President (Barack Obama) has reaffirmed that US views that India meets not only the missile technology control regime but also it is ready for NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.

She was responding to a question from Senator Ed Markey, who opposed the move of India becoming a member of the NSG, arguing that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Markey said that the NSG has "agreed to a set of factors that must be taken into account when considering whether to accept a new member. Among those factors is that the State must be a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or an equivalent nonproliferation agreement".

"And that it must accept full scope safeguards from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). In other words, Indian membership would require us either to set these factors aside or to revise them. So which of these two options, revising the rules or setting them aside does the administration plan to pursue?" asked Markey, one of the lawmakers who had led the effort opposing the civil nuclear deal during the Bush Administration as a member of the House of Representatives.

He interrupted Biswal several times as she tried to explain the Administration's position and that India meets the criteria to be a member of the NSG."Is the (US) going to ask for revision of the rules or set the rules aside for India?" he asked multiple times.

Biswal said: "I do believe that in our engagement with the NSG, we have made the case that we believe that India has complied with and is consistent with the requirements of the NSG and therefore should be considered for membership.""So you are saying that you are not exempting India from NSG member guidelines, and they are in compliance with the guidelines. Is that the Administration's perspective?" the Democratic Senator asked."Our position is that India is very much consistent with the NSG," Biswal said."Are they in compliance with the membership guidelines?" Markey said."It is our considered opinion that India has met the requirements and therefore should be considered," Biswal said as she was again interrupted by Markey."I do not think, any clear reading of the NSG rules could lead to that logical conclusion," Markey said as he tried to put India and Pakistan on the same boat of nuclear non-proliferation and NSG membership. Markey stressed that India's membership to NSG should require New Delhi signing comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT), agreeing to halt production of fissile material before pursuing for NSG membership.   "And that would be a strong message. Why is that? Well, it is because since 2008 when we also gave them an exemption the country has continued to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons programme, virtually unchecked," he said. "At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of a nuclear arms race and since that time, Pakistan has declared its intention to give control over battlefield nuclear weapons to front line military commanders and it has declared its intentions to use nuclear weapons earlier in a conflict with India," Markey said. "In your view how would granting a State specific exemption to India would affect Pakistan's choices? It would complicate efforts to get Pakistan refrain from undertaking destabilising actions such as deploying battlefield nuclear weapons," he asked. Biswal said: "We have a separate and specific dialogue with both countries to address both our concerns. "I do believe that we address the interest of both countries on their own merits. And we have very distinct and robust discussions with both countries. In his remarks, Markey argued that if India joins the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) it would be the only participating government that is not a party to the NPT. He claimed that the Administration's move is creating an action reaction in South Asia leading to a never ending escalation that ultimately brings these battlefield nuclear weapons closer and closer together. Addressing the lawmakers, Biswal also dwelled on Indo-Pak ties, saying: "We have long encouraged India and Pakistan to engage in dialogues and address some of the many issues that continue in that relationship." The US, she argued, has a very important relationship with each country and it seeks to advance its ties with each country. "We do not see this as a zero sum," she said when asked about India-Pakistan relationship. The US does recognise that for India and Pakistan, there are a number of outstanding issues between them that would be benefitted by dialogue, Biswal said. "On the other hand, we do understand that countering and combatting terrorism is an important objective not just for India, for Pakistan and for Afghanistan but for the United States across that area. So these are areas where we try to support conversations across all of our bilateral relationships as well as pushing countries in the region to address it themselves," she said. "We do believe that increasingly there is a recognition that no kind of terrorist organisation will be acceptable. You can't differentiate between good terrorists and bad terrorists. "We are starting to get that recognition back in at least the commitment that the countries in the region are making to us. We do need to see more in terms of actions in that space. We continue to push on those issues," Biswal said in response to a question.   

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