South Asia
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News analysis |

The Trump administration is looking at options to support India’s membership of the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Officials in the White House have said that the administration considers it a very important matter. India’s membership in the club has been vehemently opposed by China on the pretext that Delhi has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Beijing’s continued opposition to India’s membership meant that the issue was not decided in June’s plenary session; the matter will be discussed in November this year.

Regional countries having rejected Trump’s new South Asia policy, the overt US support for Indian membership will, if anything, force China to maintain its opposition with regards to the issue

“There is a meeting coming up shortly on this issue. The US is considering ways it can to support more actively India’s membership in the NSG because it is something that’s very important to the US,” the White House official said. India’s bid to join the NSG is a matter of pride and stature. Ever since the overt nuclear tests in 1998 Delhi wants to be acknowledged as a legitimate nuclear power.

Besides, the NSG membership will give India better access to low-cost, clean nuclear energy – important for its economic growth. Nuclear power is one way in which India, the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, could cut its emissions and reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Read more: NSG membership: Will Russia “convince” China to vote in India’s favor?

At a time when the US has decided to further strengthen its strategic partnership with India, the statement is well-timed and indicative of an effort to gloss the image of that country. “The US is very supportive of India’s membership in the NSG. That continues to be something very important, and in fact, it came up during the meeting of Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi with President (Donald) Trump (at the White House on June 26),” the White House official said while reiterating the support for Delhi’s membership in Washington.

Strategic tensions

The membership of the elite group has become one of the very many bones of contention in the region. India’s application for the club’s membership was followed by that of Pakistan. China’s opposition to India’s entry is seen as a support to its all-weather ally, Pakistan.

Read more: India looks to woo adamant China for entry into NSG: Will…

India and Pakistan are vitiating by the day, the SCO platform may not be effective, especially when India and China are also on the cusp of war in Doklam

Beijing wanted that the inclusion of non-NPT countries, such as India and Pakistan, in the NSG should follow a two-step approach – evolving a universal formula for all such nations and then taking up each country‘s application.

Indeed, the support lent to India by the US has contributed to China’s opposition to that country’s membership. China fears that India’s entry in the NSG would upset the strategic balance in South Asia and be detrimental to peace in the region. China also is anxious about this step being inimical to Pakistan’s strategic interests. Most, importantly the overt US support for Delhi’s bid is seen as a way to contain China.

It is imperative to understand that China is not opposing India’s inclusion per se. It is stressing upon devising a procedure that is applicable to all aspirants, including Pakistan. India and Pakistan can both use their full membership of the SCO to settle this NSG issue. India can assuage China’s and Pakistan’s fears by using the platform of the SCO.

Read more: Why is China keeping India from joining the NSG?

India and Pakistan can both use their full membership of the SCO to settle this NSG issue. India can assuage China’s and Pakistan’s fears by using the platform of the SCO

However, given that ties between India and Pakistan are vitiating by the day, the SCO platform may not be effective, especially when India and China are also on the cusp of war in Doklam. The renewed US support for India’s membership will further strain ties between Washington and Islamabad, for the US has raised doubts about Pakistan’s nuclear safety; NSG membership for India will be deemed as Washington’s attempt to ratify India’s nuclear program.

However, with regional countries having rejected Trump’s new South Asia policy, the overt US support for Indian membership will, if anything, force China to maintain its opposition with regards to the issue. China will, in all earnestness continue to be the major hurdle in India’s entry to the elite group.

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