China’s NSG Doublespeak: Translating the Diplomatese

The three rotten apples the Chinese offered us, and why they should keep them.

4 min read
Hindi Female

China has been a large and annoying thorn in our side throughout our Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership bid fiasco. Six countries insisted on a “criteria-based process” for allowing India in, but China went even further to frustrate our bid. Citing the importance of international rules and principles, it has blocked us every step of the way.

Beijing has, however, put forward some seemingly reasonable suggestions for how we can gain membership – a platter of non-starters, served cold.

For the uninitiated, let me unravel the subtext behind the three suggestions.


1. If India wants to be a member, it must sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

It’s a matter of principle, they say. Reasonable, right?

Not likely, China, and you know it.

Considering that the NPT requires us to give up our nuclear status in order to sign (even though the 5 founding members can keep theirs), and given that we are obviously not going to do that, the suggestion is ridiculous on its face.

Unless there’s going to be an exception made for us, this is simply not going to happen.

The three rotten apples the Chinese offered us, and why they should keep them.
(Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

But what if there can be an exception – like the waiver for civilian nuclear trade the NSG granted us in 2008 – you ask?

Well, as Jaideep Prabhu says in this Indian Express article, it is orders of magnitude more difficult for us to get an exception to the NPT than it will be to get one for the NSG.

Nuclear weapons states, at least one of them, would not want another competitor. And non-nuclear weapons states would feel the fool for accepting discriminatory laws all this time while a country that rejected the system for so long is admitted to its highest echelon.

So asking for us to sign the NPT is really a flat-out denial, couched in concerns about following international principles – which is hilarious if you’ve been following China’s flagrant violation of international law in the South China Sea, or know how it’s been flouting NPT guidelines for years.

We’re not going to get an NPT exemption, and we sure as hell aren’t going to disarm – which China knows, making the suggestion a non-starter.


2. If India wishes to be admitted, Pakistan has to be admitted too

It’s only fair, right? We’re neighbours, and we’re engaged in nuclear competition, how can the international community take sides, particularly when regional strategic stability is at risk? No, that wouldn’t be proper.

But if India cannot get unanimous consensus for joining, Pakistan certainly will not. Rajesh Rajagopalan, Professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says:

We have never objected, really, to Pakistan being included. Pakistan’s problem is not us, there are a lot of other countries who are not even willing to consider Pakistan because of its record.

Knowing that NSG members will oppose Pakistan’s inclusion much more stridently than they’ve opposed India’s – with good reason, thanks to Pakistan’s blatant proliferation in the form of its chief nuclear scientist (read: chief proliferator) AQ Khan - this is just another way of saying, “Lol, over my dead body.”

The three rotten apples the Chinese offered us, and why they should keep them.
(Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

This suggestion too is a non-starter.


3. If India needs nuclear energy, it can negotiate a bilateral cooperation agreement with China

Why on Earth would we want that?

China is a net importer of uranium, and so is not in a position to sell – and we are already meeting our uranium demands through civil nuclear deals with countries like Australia. Neither do we need to buy reactors, or any other technology from Beijing.

As Professor Rajagopalan says, regarding other nuclear materials we might need:

They [China] really don’t have nuclear power plants with the latest technology to offer. We get nuclear power plants from Europe that use Japanese technology that is much better, so it doesn’t make sense [to buy from China].

So uh, thanks but no thanks?

The three rotten apples the Chinese offered us, and why they should keep them.
(Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

Besides, material goods are far from the only reason we want to join the NSG. We are an emerging international player and as of 2011, Indians made up 17% of the world’s population – we want to be part of the rule-making body; we want in on the elite club; we want to be recognised as a major power in our own right. Negotiating a bilateral cooperation agreement with China affords us none of these benefits, which again, China knows. Non-starter.


While it hides its purely strategic objections behind a smokescreen of ‘principles’, to anyone who follows foreign policy, it’s clear that China is being sarcastic, at best. You can almost see the Chinese negotiators snickering behind their hands.

Because when you translate the diplomatese, what China’s plainly saying to the world’s largest democracy is this:


The three rotten apples the Chinese offered us, and why they should keep them.
(Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

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Topics:  India   China    NPT 

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