News Analysis |
China indicated on Monday it will not support India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the elite bloc’s plenary meeting in June unless a universal formula is evolved for accepting applications from countries that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The Hindustan Times reported 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.
China’s position on the matter ahead of this year’s plenary session in June 2017 is likely to affect bilateral ties with India, which are already strained these days. With India expressing disquiet over the OBOR and China involvement in what it sees as its region. In addition, India is upset with China for blocking the UN listing of JeM leader Masood Azhar as a terrorist.
It must be recalled that the NSG was set up in response to India’s own clandestine nuclear test in 1974, hence India wants to restore its position.
“China’s position on the non-NPT members’ participation in the NSG has not changed,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.
We support the NSG group following the mandate of the 2016 Seoul plenary session and building consensus as well as [an] intergovernmental process [that] is open and transparent to deal with the relevant issue in a two-step approach,” she added.
Read more: Indian media tantalizes Russia over NSG membership: A wave of poor relations?
India had applied for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2016, but China balked at allowing India in, since it was not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Last year, China showed its displeasure with the USA on pushing India’s case for the NSG. On Jan 16, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying replied, “It is worth pointing out that the NSG membership is not something to be given privately between countries as a farewell gift”.
In December 2016, Argentine ambassador to IAEA, Rafael Mariano GrossiGrossi circulated a draft proposal which listed nine ‘general commitments’ that non-NPT applicants would have to undertake in order to qualify to join NSG. This included a condition that the membership will be contingent on a “commitment not to conduct a nuclear test”.
Indians “reason out” their position
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.
According to China’s Global Times, India has gained much-needed impetus from the US.
The Hindustan editorial stated “[The] U.S. backing adds the biggest impetus to India’s ambition. By cozying up to India, Washington’s India policy actually serves the purpose of containing China.”
Why China doesn’t want to give India NSG Membership
India that has repeatedly called China the “one country” blocking its ambitions has softened its public stance, and conducted two rounds of talks between China’s nuclear negotiator Wang Qun and India’s Joint Secretary for Disarmament Amandeep Singh Gill on September 13 and October 31 last year. China has time and again reiterated its position.
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’s Foreign Ministry said last year that “any formula [for membership] worked out should be nondiscriminatory and applicable to all non-NPT states; without prejudice to the core value of the NSG.”
Read more: India warns China to respect its ‘sensitivities’
The NSG was set up in response to India’s clandestine nuclear test performed in 1974. It was formed to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons since this posed a threat to world peace.
“Since its foundation in 1975, all NSG members shall be NPT signatories,” states a Global Times editorial. “This has become the primary principle of the organization. Now India wants to be the first exception to join the NSG without signing the NPT. It is morally legitimate for China and other members to upset India’s proposal in defense of principles.”
In addition, 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 is also apprehensive of this step being inimical to Pakistan’s strategic interests. Most importantly, they see overt US support for Delhi’s bid is seen as a ploy to contain them.
However, the support of the US for Indian membership of teh NSG has had and will undoubtedly have an impact on some other nations. For those countries which also wish to have a finger in the pie of India’s market, many of them will begin to back India’s NSG membership, or at least not oppose it, an article in the Global Times said in apparent reference to the majority of the countries in the NSG supporting India’s entry.
“However, as a country that has signed neither the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons nor the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, India is not yet qualified for accession into the NSG,” it said.
The continued Chinese opposition to India’s NSG membership will create more tensions between Delhi and Beijing; the recent Indian boycott of OBOR dented ties at the diplomatic level. Islamabad deems it as China’s support for its stance. The US-Indo entente is likely to strengthen and will push India’s efforts to join the club. Regional implications can only be repugnant to peace if not given to both countries.