India hopes China will no longer block its entry to NSG

Fingers crossed in New Delhi as 48-nation cartel controlling global nuclear biz starts its plenary

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and  Chinese President Xi Jinping. PTI File photo

With the Nuclear Suppliers Group beginning its plenary in Kazakhstan on Thursday, fingers are crossed in New Delhi as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is keenly waiting to see if China finally changes its position and stands aside to let India enter the cartel.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is holding its 29th annual plenary in Nur-Sultan (Astana), the capital of Kazakhstan, on Thursday and Friday. The cartel has on its agenda the “technical, legal and political aspects” of granting membership to the countries like India and Pakistan, which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, commonly known as the NPT.

READ: Despite détente, China again disappoints India at NSG

Kazakhstan will take over the chairmanship of the NSG from Latvia during the plenary.

New Delhi hopes that the plenary may see China changing its position and stop blocking India’s entry into the NSG – given the bonhomie between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping and efforts by both sides over the past one-and-a-half-years to mend the troubled relations between the two neighbours, sources told DH.

NSG controls global nuclear commerce. The guidelines of the 48-nation organization prohibit its members to enter into nuke ties with countries that did not sign the NPT. Neither India nor Pakistan has signed the NPT. The NSG, however, granted a waiver to India in 2008. The waiver paved the way for India entering into a civil nuclear deal with the US. India subsequently struck similar agreements with other countries, including France, Australia and Canada.

New Delhi submitted its application for membership of the NSG on May 12, 2016. Pakistan did the same just seven days later.

Beijing, however, stonewalled the US-led move to admit India into the NSG, when the cartel had its annual plenary in Seoul in June 2016.

China argued that if the “NPT signatory” criterion was diluted to admit India into the NSG, it should also open up the door for other non-NPT countries, including Pakistan.

Russia, France, United Kingdom and many other NSG members extended support to India’s bid for membership.

Kazakhstan, which is going to hold the NSG chair till the plenary next year, also supported India’s plea for membership of the NSG.

Beijing’s representatives at the NSG annual plenary in the past few years insisted that the discussion should not only be focused on India's entry into the cartel, but also possibilities of admitting Pakistan and all other “non-NPT countries”.

China has been arguing that the NSG should first “explore” through “an open and transparent” process and reach agreement on a "non-discriminatory formula” to deal with the issue of granting membership to “non-NPT countries” and, once the non-discriminatory formula would be adopted by the group, it should move to the second stage to take up “country-specific membership issues”.

Modi and Xi held a bilateral meeting at Bishkek – the capital of Kyrgyz Republic – on June 13 on the sideline of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit. This was Prime Minister’s first meeting with the Chinese President after he led the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections held in April-May and thus retained the top office in New Delhi for the second five-year term. It was also the fifth meeting between the two leaders after the “informal summit” they had at Wuhan in central China on April 27 and 28.

The “informal summit” and the follow-up engagements at different levels led to a thaw in India-China relations, which had hit a new low over the military stand-off in Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in June-August 2017.

Modi will host Xi for the second “informal summit” in October.

China on May 1 made a significant move to take away a major irritant in its ties with India and budged from its long-standing policy of shielding leaders of terror outfits based in Pakistan from United Nations sanctions. It stood aside to let the Security Council sanction Masood Azhar, the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad – a terrorist outfit based in Pakistan and responsible for several attacks in India, including the February 14 suicide bombing killing over 40 Central Reserve Police Force soldiers at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir.

The ruling BJP highlighted the UNSC sanction on Masood Azhar as a major success of Modi government’s diplomatic efforts, particularly to bring India-China ties back on track.

New Delhi now expects that Beijing will also make a move to remove the other irritant in bilateral relations – by withdrawing its objection to India’s proposed entry into the NSG.

India’s “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” to global effort to mitigate climate change would require it to generate 40% power without using fossil fuel by 2030.

The government has a target to raise installed capacity for nuclear power generation from 5780 MWe to 63 GWe by 2032.

New Delhi conveyed to Beijing in the past that India’s membership of the NSG would enable it to take part in the process to frame rules for international nuclear trade and would thus provide for “a predictable global environment”, which would help it implement its plan to substantially raise atomic power generation, sources told DH in New Delhi.

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