India's NSG membership faces Chinese hurdle
The key extraordinary plenary meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group is currently ongoing in Vienna. India's entry into the elite club will be decided in this important meeting and another subsequent one scheduled in Seoul on 20 June. Pakistan, too, is eying the membership,despite its abysmal record on the non-proliferation front.
The run-up to the meeting has seen aggressive diplomacy from both the countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi just finished a five nation visit, in which he especially lobbied with Switzerland and Mexico to support India's membership bid. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and senior diplomats too have been lobbying hard for India's entry. Secretary East and Secretary West had travelled to South Africa, New Zealand and Turkey, other NSG countries.
According to latest reports, China remains defiant in its opposition to India's membership. On the other hand, two countries India had reached out to - Turkey and New Zealand - have softened their stance.
What are India's chances?
The US has, already been lobbying for India's membership since 2010 after both the countries signed the nuclear deal in 2008. India, after intervention from the US, had then got a special waiver. So much so that Secretary of State John Kerry, recently, wrote a letter to the member nations praising India's credentials.
India has shown strong support for the objectives of the NSG and the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and is a 'like-minded' state deserving of NSG admission," Kerry wrote in the two page letter reported first by Bloomberg. According to the report Kerry also urged the member states skeptical to India's entry to "agree to not block consensus on India's admission."
Entry to the NSG is based on consensus and even opposing member state could lead to delay in India's bid. The NSG currently has 48 members including Countries that are part of NSG are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.
Interestingly, the group was formed after India's carried out the nuclear tests in 1974.
A full membership to the NSG would provide India with access to advanced nuclear technology to shore up its energy capacity. The government has said that it wants to source 40% of its energy needs from non-fossil fuels. Moreover, the membership would also help the indigenous industry, a part of Modi's Make in India plan. The members of the NSG are allowed to trade and export nuclear technology.
Several countries could raise the red flag against India. China, especially, is said to be playing the spoiler. The Chinese, are wary of the growing relationship between the India and the US, which they see it as the latter's attempt to foist a strategic power in the subcontinent to counter Beijing's influence.
The Chinese, of course, are locked in a bitter battle with the US over their territorial claims in the South China Sea, where artificial Islands have come up in recent times, something which has led to objections by countries including Philippines. The US and China are locked in a contest over the 200 mile exclusive economic zone where the Chinese have contested the US' claims of freedom of navigation.
The Chinese are clearly irked with India and hence out to put a spanner. They have hardened their stance, unlike in 2008, when they reluctantly agreed to allow India the waiver to access civilian nuclear technology.
According to reports, China has articulated it's opposition to India by claiming that India is not a signatory to the NPT, that no country specific exemption should be made and that the "NSG decision should not change the balance of power in South Asia". India maintains that NPT is a discriminatory regime.
China is openly backing Pakistan, with the view that India getting an NSG membership would tip the balance of power in India's favour in South Asia. Pakistan is a close Chinese ally and the latter has recently promised to invest $45 billion in Pakistan as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. China is also developing the Gwadar port in Pakistan, close to the Iranian border where India has recently approved to invest in the Chabahar port.
Pakistan, too, has upped the ante for its inclusion. Sartaj Aziz, the powerful advisor to PM Nawaz Sharif has been frantically calling NSG member states including Russia, South Korea and New Zealand to lobby. He had earlier said that Pakistan's "efforts towards non-discriminatory approach will pay off" suggesting that the neighbouring country is lobbying against India's inclusion.