India’s NSG membership hope recedes

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India is likely to be disappointed in its efforts to secure a membership of the coveted 48-member elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which is going to meet between 19-26 June in the Swiss capital of Bern. India’s membership to the NSG, which has till now been blocked by China, is also likely to be discussed in the meet.

According to sources privy to previous plenary sessions, among those who have questioned India’s entry into the NSG are Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Italy, Austria, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Turkey and China. Sources said that there is a very slim chance of India getting a favourable response (with regard to getting membership) right now, but still in order to quell the intensity of objections from those who are against India’s membership, India’s delegation will be trying to re-assure the countries who have supported India’s membership at earlier plenary sessions despite their reservations about India being a non-NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) state and also convince the publicly discerning member countries who have been against India till now.

The reason cited by most of these countries is their objection to a “country-specific waiver” that will pave way for India’s NSG membership. They feel it is unfair for those nations who first had to sign the NPT to get NSG membership. The common concern that is cited by opposing countries is that if India is made an exception to the rule, other non-NPT countries, too, would ask for country-specific waivers. At present, countries like North Korea, Israel and Pakistan are non-NPT states.

In June last year, the plenary session of NSG was held in Seoul, where a closed-door meeting was conducted among NSG members to discuss India’s membership. While some experts maintain that other countries had raised objections only for the sake of discussion, in spirit, they supported India; others say that some nations have a strong opposition to India’s membership. The right way, according to the allegedly opposing states, is to follow a “criterion-based process”. After the Seoul plenary, Mexico had pressed for a criteria-based process for allowing non-NPT members into the NSG, along with Switzerland, Brazil and Turkey. This had surprised many in New Delhi because Prime Minister Narendra Modi had especially visited Mexico and Switzerland a few weeks earlier and discussed NSG, where the state heads had supported India’s membership. Brazil, another country that India saw as a confirmed supporter given that India is part of groupings like IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), had raised India’s non- NPT status as an issue. Turkey was the only other country to push for clubbing both India and Pakistan’s applications directly, which has also been suggested by China.

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