India makes a fresh bid with China for NSG membership

India makes a fresh bid with China for NSG membership

NEW DELHI - India is mounting another strong bid for admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an elite club of 48 countries that deal with fissile materials and nuclear technology, which is set to meet in June and December this year, three persons familiar with the hectic diplomatic activities on the matter said on condition of anonymity.

The NSG is the only major export control regime India is not part of after its entry into the Australia Group (January 2018), the Missile Technology Control Regime (June, 2016) and the Wassenaar Arrangement (December 2017).

Being a member of the NSG would be shot in the arm for the Narendra Modi government and a major policy achievement ahead of the next general elections in 2019.

The issue of India’s entry came up for discussion at the Seoul plenary of the NSG last June, but Beijing did not agree on the grounds that India was not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

Though other countries also raised objections to Indian membership, India said “one country” consistently raised procedural hurdles, in an oblique reference to China. Beijing backed a two-step approach which stipulates that the NSG members first need to arrive at a set of principles for the admission of non-NPT states into the NSG and then move forward with the discussions on specific cases.

Officials said that fresh talks between Indian and Chinese officials on the issue were “forward looking”. Former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh suggested China had blocked India’s entry primarily on account of the strain in bilateral ties.

“There is a perceptible change in the bilateral ties after Modi meeting President Xi Jinping in Wuhan on April 27 and 28. So if China withdraws its objection, India could be a member of NSG,” he said.