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What is the Nuclear Suppliers Group and why does India want to be a member?

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 9 June 2016, 18:32 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just concluded a successful five-nation trip with stopovers in Geneva and Mexico City to lobby for support from Switzerland and Mexico for India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

India has been trying to become a member of the NSG for a few years now. A membership would mean that India can access to nuclear technology and raw material to meet domestic energy requirements. The issue gained steam again ahead of the 9 June Nuclear Suppliers' Group's extraordinary plenary meeting in Vienna.

What is the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG)?

The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Interestingly, the 48-member NSG was formed in response to India's nuclear test in 1974, which demonstrated that certain non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be readily used for weapon development.

The NSG guidelines contain the 1994 'Non-Proliferation Principle', according to which a supplier, authorises a transfer only when satisfied that the transfer would not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Implications for India

Should India bag the membership, the country will have access to technology for nuclear power plants as well as a number of other uses.

An NSG membership would allow India to engage in nuclear power production, which will help the nation fullfill its commitment towards reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy comes from clean and renewable sources.

With access to latest technology, India can commercialise the production of nuclear power equipment, boosting innovation and high-tech manufacturing in India and thereby enjoying economic and strategic benefits.

Having the ability to offer its own nuclear power plants to the world means spawning of an entire nuclear industry and related technology development. This could give the Make in India programme a big boost.

What does this mean for India's neighbours?

India's entry into the NSG may prove detrimental to Pakistan's bid to join the group. This is one of the reasons why China wants Pakistan to be included as a member. China has pointed out that India cannot be a member since it is a non-signatory to the NPT. However, the same argument can be used against Pakistan as well. On its part, India's defence is that it has had a clean record, unlike Pakistan and China.

Pakistan's infamous nuclear scientist AQ Khan was accused of sourcing as well as selling nuclear technologies through illegal means. He was held responsible by the Pakistan government for selling nuclear know-how to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

China has helped Pakistan set up a series of nuclear reactors and has provided the country with nuclear materials and other critical assistance in violation of NSG and NPT rules.

First published: 9 June 2016, 18:32 IST