India must focus on self, not Pak at NSG

India must focus on self, not Pak at NSG

As the plenary session of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) where India’s membership is to be discussed draws near, all eyes are on China. Beijing has objected to any possibility of India being granted membership unless it signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It could prevent India from gaining entry to the body. Its argument is an old one that several NSG members, including the nuclear weapon states, raised in the past. They did not want to be seen to be ‘rewarding’ India with NSG membership when it had not signed on to the NPT or given up its nuclear weapons programme. However, over the years, these members dropped this objection, recognising India’s exemplary non-proliferation record and realising that the NSG would be a stronger body with India as its member than outside it. Consequently, these countries expressed support for granting India NSG membership. The US government’s strong support of India’s membership exemplifies this shift.  It is in this context that China’s objection is worrisome. Its position is not based on an objective assessment of India’s nuclear programme. A fortnight ago, Beijing put its foot down on expecting India to sign the NPT before being admitted into the NSG. It has since diluted its opposition somewhat. Still, it can be expected to throw a spanner in the works for India.

China’s strategy at the upcoming NSG plenary session in New York will be to link India’s entry with that of Pakistan. Since it will be difficult for the NSG to admit Pakistan, India’s entry too will be nixed in the process. As India accelerates its diplomacy in the run-up to and during the NSG meet, it must focus on its own membership, rather than fritter away its energies by discussing Pakistan’s shabby proliferation record. It is possible that the NSG may consider admitting India but as a ‘second-class member’, that is, as a non-nuclear weapon state. Or it may expect India to give up its nuclear weapons programme. How far is India willing to go to be accepted as a member of the NSG? Is it clear on what it is willing to give up for the sake of admission? These are issues that require discussion. The government must involve opposition parties too before it makes these critical decisions that impact India’s national security. There is a perception among international analysts that India is desperate for NSG membership as it is craving for entry into this elite club. Concerns over security and not status should guide India’s diplomacy at the NSG.
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