Modi’s Failed NSG Bid: Diplomatic Achievement or Embarrassment?

Applause or Course Correction. How should we view PM Modi’s failed attempt at getting India into the NSG cartel?

Updated
World
5 min read
 India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and
China’s President Xi Jinping. (Photo: Reuters)

Application filed or application denied? There’s more than one way of looking at India’s NSG failure at Seoul.

Ashok Malik’s blog in the Times of India and and Manoj Joshi’s analysis in The Wire offer two diametrically opposite views on Prime Minister Modi’s failed diplomatic effort. Ironically, the only point on which they agree is the degree of misinformation on the subject.

View: NSG Membership, the Next Logical Step

The [NSG] Group works on consensus. It had given India a waiver in 2008 but could in theory revoke the waiver or change its terms. If India was in the Group it could veto any change that would harm India, Teflon-coat the 2008 waiver and additionally contribute to the global nuclear regime.
Ashok Malik, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation in a TOI blog

Counter View: NSG Membership Bid a Non-Starter

Just why India wants membership to the NSG so badly is not clear, since we already have a waiver for civil nuclear trade. There has been talk of arriving at the nuclear high-table. But since 2011, the NSG has instituted a rule that would deny enrichment and reprocessing technologies even to members if they have not signed the NPT. In other words, we are probably condemned to a second-class membership anyway, whenever we do manage to get in.
Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation in The Wire
How will India respond to China after it blocked India’s NSG bid? (Photo: iStockphoto)
How will India respond to China after it blocked India’s NSG bid? (Photo: iStockphoto)

View: America’s Support and India’s Strategic Timing

Why did India apply now? A sympathetic American president is ending his term. His successor may be preoccupied at the time of the next NSG plenary in 2017. In 2018, India will be in election mode and the Modi government may have less leverage. As such, it was 2016 – or it was a kick down the road.
Ashok Malik, in TOI blog

Counter View: India’s Bid and America’s Strategic Support

There were expectations that the US would win the day for us. But that was a serious miscalculation. In 2008, the US was willing to do the heavy lifting because the waiver was necessary for the US to activate the Indo-US nuclear deal. But this time around, India’s membership to the NSG does not have the same salience for the US; it is a commitment to India, but not something that affects the US itself. India has the waiver it needs to trade with the US and other countries. And the US has never quite been committed to giving us enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Besides, the US cannot be entirely unhappy with the focus on China on this issue because it is pushing India into a deeper US embrace.
Manoj Joshi’s analysis in The Wire
Modi sealed America’s backing for its NSG bid after his June 8 meeting with President Obama. (Photo: AP)
Modi sealed America’s backing for its NSG bid after his June 8 meeting with President Obama. (Photo: AP)

View: China Opposed India. Full Stop.

In Seoul the NSG delegates met on 23 June. China insisted India’s application would not be discussed. Late in the day it agreed to the application being included in the agenda on the condition that no decision on the application would be taken in the 2016 NSG plenary. At this stage, the Indian delegation in Seoul knew immediate success was not possible.
Ashok Malik on China’s objection to India’s NSG bid

Counter View: China’s Objections Are All About Geopolitics

Outfits like the NSG are not about international law, but about geopolitics. China’s views are not too difficult to understand. Of all the Asian countries that have the potential to rival China in terms of geographical spread, military power and economy, India does. China has no intention of aiding a rival’s rise, even if that rival is way behind it. It is, of course, ready for normal relations, one involving carefully calibrated give and take. There is a further disincentive to China giving too much – its relationship with Pakistan, the ‘iron brother’ that has helped it lock down India in South Asia.
Manoj Joshi on the reasons for China’s objection to India’s NSG bid
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping. (Photo: Reuters)
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping. (Photo: Reuters)

View: Significant Diplomatic Achievement for Modi

Its [UPA government’s] nuclear liability law, which had problems that were eventually sorted out by the Modi government in 2015, may have deterred it. The liability law had made the 2008 waiver infructuous and nuclear commerce with India near impossible. India applied to the MTCR in 2015. After a setback it got in, on the second attempt, in 2016. In May 2016, it applied for NSG membership for the first time. By June most of the countries (about 40 of 48) were willing to take it in straightaway, no questions asked. This was a significant diplomatic achievement over two months.
Ashok Malik in TOI blog

Counter View: Modi’s Charm Futile in International Politics

The NSG episode should deliver a few lessons in the way international politics is conducted, provided we have an audience willing to learn. International policy may be about summits and photo-ops, but these are based on deals that have been carefully worked out beforehand. The expectation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would charm his interlocutors into supporting India is naïve, to say the least.
Manoj Joshi in The Wire
The US backed India, saying its NSG membership bid is not about an arms race, but about civilian use of nuclear energy. (Photo: Reuters)
The US backed India, saying its NSG membership bid is not about an arms race, but about civilian use of nuclear energy. (Photo: Reuters)

View: India Needs to Send aTough Message to China

It’s down to a shootout between New Delhi and Beijing. China is behaving not as an enlightened power but as a strategic small-timer, with the petty, perfidious and short-termist mindset of a Pyongyang dictator or a Rawalpindi general. India is honour-bound to send it a tough message. There is no option.
Ashok Malik on what India should do next

Counter View: India Needs a Course Correction

The second lesson of international politics India needs to learn is that geopolitics always trumps world order. And of all the countries that have excelled in exploiting this, Pakistan is without a peer. In the 1980s, it persuaded the US to set aside its global non-proliferation agenda in exchange for facilitating the latter’s jihad against the Soviet Union. Today it has convinced China that its best chance of getting into the NSG lies in appending its application to that of India.
Manoj Joshi on the needs for India to rethink its strategy

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