IDSA COMMENT

India’s NSG Membership

June 18, 2011

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is, apparently, meeting in the Netherlands on June 20, 2011. A section of the media and the think tank community suggests that India’s membership in the NSG will be discussed at this meeting. The meeting has generated interest in the global policy community because it will greatly determine India’s membership of the other three multilateral export control regimes. The meeting, in fact, will be an important step towards the implementation of the November 2010 joint statement signed between India and the United States.

Quite naturally, consultations at the government level are taking place. The American task was made easier when, in subsequent weeks, countries like Russia and France declared their support for India’s membership of the multilateral export control regimes of which they are also members. Later, even the United Kingdom and Germany extended their support for India’s membership. The Indian government, to my understanding, will go strictly by the template of the India-US joint statement issued on November 8, 2010. The joint statement reads:

“the United States intends to support India’s full membership in the four multilateral export control regimes (Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group, and Wassenaar Arrangement) in a phased manner, and to consult with regime members to encourage the evolution of regime membership criteria, consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes, as the Government of India takes steps towards the full adoption of the regimes’ export control requirements to reflect its prospective membership, with both processes moving forward together. In the view of the United States, India should qualify for membership in the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement according to existing requirements once it imposes export controls over all items on these regimes’ control lists.”

In this statement, India committed to taking only one step: harmonizing its export controls with those of all the four multilateral export controls regimes. The statement does not talk about the fulfilment of non-proliferation criteria, including some questionable ‘objective non-proliferation criteria’. There should not be any misperception that additional conditions may be applied to India.

Some scholars outside the government have also reflected on the issue, like Pierre Goldschmidt for instance.1 A recent commentary of mine2 included a response to Goldschmidt; this has, in turn, elicited a response from Goldschmidt and Toby Dalton.3 All these writings are outside the government framework and basically reflect the personal views of the authors. The governments—Indian or American—are under no compulsions to borrow or support our ideas.

In their response4 to my views, Goldschmidt and Dalton suggest that India is desperate to get into the NSG and is, therefore, prepared to accept additional conditions. This is far from the reality. It is also a completely erroneous proposition that the NSG membership is going to benefit only India. Actually, it is in the NSG’s own interest to integrate India within its fold, for such a step will help in global nuclear governance and management. A number of American foundations, think tanks and academic institutes such as Brookings and Stanley Foundation have issued study reports that encourage a rising power like India to assume greater global responsibilities. When India is ready to undertake such responsibilities, it is grossly unfair to place impossible hurdles before it in terms of fresh conditions. If India is asked to share responsibilities with others, it should be granted the same rights and privileges.

Goldschmidt and Dalton have also highlighted another faulty proposition when they write ‘…in the case of India, the state first in the queue for membership…’ This gives the impression that there is a long queue. There is no so queue. At present, there is only one case before the NSG, that of India.

Here, it is also important to emphasise that disagreement does not amount to ‘name-calling’. Moreover, the issue is not about being pro-India or anti-Pakistan, but about focusing upon the disturbing, informal and latent advocacy of a leading proliferator whose links with, and sponsorship of, terrorism are being exposed to the world every day, including in US courts.

Without intending to cast any aspersions on the authors in question, I wish to point out that the formulation of their criteria seems to be intended to admit Pakistan into the NSG. Unlike in India’s case where the United States has made specific proposals, there is no proposal for Pakistan; unless, of course, Goldschmidt wants to become an informal advocate of Pakistani interests in the NSG.

The authors made references to the principles, if not the letter, of the NPT. Would they agree to extend to India the voluntary safeguards arrangement for a nuclear weapon country under the NPT?

Their strong advocacy of the CTBT is not sufficient, for it is not likely to enter into force any time soon. Whether you call it dead or not, the fact remains that it is not working. True, the Indian government has declared a voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests. It is well within the right of scholars and experts outside the government to question the relevance and logic of reiterating this moratorium when the test ban treaty has become meaningless.

Goldschmidt should redirect his energy to strengthening the NSG by seeking the compliance of China to its commitments to the group. He may work with his colleague(s) to see that China does not supply nuclear reactors, namely, Chasma-3 and Chasma-4, to Pakistan. The authors should also ensure that the commitment made by the US government in the November 2010 joint statement for India’s membership of the NSG is fulfilled. The non-fulfilment of this commitment will seriously erode the credibility of the system.

The nuclear policy community spread across the world needs to think constructively to manage contemporary challenges. At times, the community may have to devise new tools for this purpose. And it may also have to adapt some old tools such as NPT and the NSG.

  1. 1. See, for example, Pierre Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership: A Criteria-based Approach for Non-NPT States,” Proliferation Analysis, May 24, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=44147&pro....
  2. 2. Rajiv Nayan, “Proliferation Lobby Analysts Seek to Corner India on CTBT,” IDSA Comment, June 3, 2011, http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/NonProliferationLobbyAnalystsSeektoCornerIndiaonCTBT_rnayan_030611.
  3. 3. Pierre Goldschmidt and Toby Dalton, “Conditions on Indian NSG Membership,” Proliferation Analysis, June 14, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=44594&prog=zgp&proj=znpp.
  4. 4. Ibid.