Resistance to India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group Membership Softens

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG.

2 min read
President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo Courtesy: AP)

A US-led push for India to join a club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology made some headway on Thursday as several opponents appeared more willing to work towards a compromise, although China remained defiant.

The 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make those arms. It was set up in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974.

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington without being a member of the group.

But China on Thursday maintained its position that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is central to the NSG, diplomats said.

South Africa, New Zealand and Turkey, however, softened their stance somewhat, opening the door to a process under which non-NPT states such as India might join, diplomats said.

After the closed-door talks on Thursday, aimed at preparing for an annual NSG plenary meeting in Seoul later this month. a diplomat said:

There’s movement, including towards a process, but we’d have to see what that process would look like.

Opponents argue that granting India membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, an ally of China’s, which has responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own.

Pakistan joining would be unacceptable to many, given its track record. The father of its nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan ran an illicit network for years that sold nuclear secrets to countries including North Korea and Iran.

Most of the hold-outs argue that if India is to be admitted, it should be under criteria that apply equally to all states rather than under a “tailor-made” solution for a US ally.

Mexico’s president said on Wednesday his country now backs India’s membership bid.

One Vienna-based diplomat said it had softened its stance but still opposed the idea of India joining under conditions that did not apply equally to all.

(This story has been edited for length and published as part of a special arrangement with Reuters.)

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