The international community is discussing how to bring India into the multilateral export control regimes. During his November 2010 visit to India, United States president Barack Obama made a few speeches and issued a joint statement with prime minister Manmohan Singh, which contained a number of significant policy pronouncements. The further accommodation of India in the US and multilateral export control regimes was a notable feature of these pronouncements.
President Obama announced that the US would support India’s candidature in the four multilateral export control regimes—the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. India meets all the criteria for the membership of the MTCR. India may have to add a few items to its dual use technology control list called Special Chemical Organisms, Material, Equipment and Technology (SCOMET) to meet the membership criteria for the Australia Group. For membership in the NSG and Wassenaar Arrangement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) puzzle needs to be solved. For India, the membership of the NSG is strategically relevant.
After Obama’s announcement supporting India’s membership, the French and the Russians also gave their support, and the idea gained ground that India may be given the membership incrementally. It was generally believed that the Australia Group would come first, followed by the MTCR and the NSG and the Wassenaar Arrangement in that order. However, the Indian establishment wants membership to come as a package. The incremental approach has an inherent danger: the membership of the strategically less relevant regimes would become possible but the membership of the strategically more relevant regime, namely, the NSG, would be problematic because of the NPT issue. The Wassenaar Arrangement’s NPT criteria would also have to be amended to enable Indian membership. As for the MTCR, politics, instead of criteria, may be used to delay or block India’s membership.
The Indian government’s position, by and large, seems to have the support of the Indian strategic community. Now the package approach is seen as being preferable to the incremental approach. As this message has been sent across the world, the concerned players may have two options: either deny India the membership of all the regimes or prepare to give it the membership of all the regimes. India’s new profile as a significant economy that is performing well even during difficult global financial times and as an equally important producer, client and consumer of advanced technology may force these actors to accommodate India in the regimes. Indeed, India’s entry would only enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the regimes.
The process of the accommodation seems to have begun. Indian officials and those of relevant regimes countries have started interacting to facilitate India’s membership. Quite expectedly, analysts and non-governmental experts are being consulted over the way(s) to include India in the regimes. Although there is very little information about the official-level interactions, the non-governmental community has however begun to write about this. A good example is the short essay “NSG Membership: A Criteria-based Approach for Non-NPT States” by Pierre Goldschmidt for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Although the essay maintains a semblance of objectivity, the piece unfortunately reflects the prejudice prevalent in a section of the US nonproliferation community. The very first paragraph opens with the cliché: ‘The nuclear policy community widely believes this [the 2008 NSG guidelines] exemption undermines the credibility of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.’
Other non-proliferation writers cite the China-Pakistan deal for building additional reactors at the Chashma complex and Pakistan's prevention of negotiations for the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Even a novice in the field would know that Pakistan and China would have cut the deal irrespective of the India-specific exemptions. The Pakistan-China deal has been cut on the basis of some grandfatherly clause of a previous unseen agreement. Similarly, Pakistan would have found some excuse or the other to block FMCT negotiations. For example, this year, it has included US support for India’s membership in multilateral export control regimes as another reason for blocking FMCT negotiations.
In fact, Pierre Goldschmidt has proposed a set of fourteen criteria for membership of the NSG for the non-NPT countries. He claims that these fourteen conditions can ‘correct the inequality created by the Indian exception’. Eleven of the criteria are part of the Indian policy while the other three look unrealistic and may not be taken seriously in India. In reality, these additional conditions are designed to constrain India. The old agenda of the anti-Indian non-proliferation lobby is being pushed through such new arguments. The argument is based on the grievance as to why India was allowed to get away so easily during the September 2008 special plenary session of the NSG. It is a case of sour grapes.
The argument in the Goldschmidt essay is to persist with the unfinished agenda of the July 2005 agreement of the anti-India non-proliferation lobby. Thus, the second criteria proposes that: “To become a full member of the NSG, a non-NPT state must…have in force a Voluntary Offer Agreement (VOA) with the IAEA whereby the non-NPT State undertakes to place all new nuclear facilities located outside existing military nuclear sites on the list of facilities to be safeguarded by the IAEA… .” This amounts to a reopening of the separation plan. This is unacceptable to India
Goldschmidt’s essay claims that the India-US nuclear deal gave India some ‘guarantees’ that were not granted to other non-nuclear weapons states. Elsewhere in the essay, the author expects India to take up the obligations of other nuclear weapons states as defined by the NPT. This contradictory position dominates the article. The author, in fact, expects India to take on obligations which have not been assumed by members of the NSG. It is beyond comprehension as to why India should not have been allowed to develop nuclear weapons for its security. Has any other nuclear weapon country given this assurance to gain NSG membership?
Similarly, has the United States ratified the CTBT to retain its membership of the NSG? Did China give this undertaking before joining the NSG? When China was made a member, it was in the news for supplying nuclear and missile items to non-NPT and Non-Nuclear Weapons States. Interestingly, afterwards, not only the US government but also a predominant section of the US non-proliferation community went mute, Chinese proliferation was downplayed and China was declared to be an important stakeholder of the non-proliferation system. Any signature without ratification basically means nothing. So, criteria 8 and 9 are meaningless. Actually, the CTBT is a dead issue. The US nonproliferation community has failed to revive the treaty. Flogging the dead horse only spreads dirt and stink. The treaty and related phenomena need a quiet burial.
To resolve the challenge posed by the NPT criteria, the best solution would be to amend the NPT and accommodate India as a nuclear weapon state. However, this does not appear likely in the near future. Pending membership of the NPT, India’s good standing with the treaty may be factored in. India, after becoming a nuclear weapons state, declared its intention to unilaterally follow articles I, III and VI of the NPT. Targeting India seems to be the only motive of this essay; the set of criteria is not relevant for Israel because it is a different case. For NSG membership, it will not modify its strategy of ambiguous nuclear weapon status. The non-proliferation community should avoid recommending any steps which would benefit a rabid proliferator like Pakistan. Continuing to do so will further undermine the credibility of the non-proliferation community.