Local Goa News

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

India in Nuclear Suppliers Group? China-Pakistan nexus may play spoiler

On the morning of 18 May, 1974, on Vesak, India conducted a peaceful nuclear test, aptly codenamed 'Smiling Buddha'. What made the test different from the others was the fact that India was the first non-UNSC member to test a nuclear device. Another noteworthy fact was that India did not secure help from either the Western powers or the East Bloc. What was a matter of great pride for India, however, was a heartburn for the established nuclear powers. In response, an elite group of nuclear suppliers emerged with an aim to regulate the nuclear technology trade. Their first meeting – it had only seven founding members — took place in November 1975 in London. The group is now called the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
India did not conduct any nuclear test for the next 24 years — failing to execute a test in 1995 under US pressure — until May 1998 when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government conducted three underground nuclear tests at the Pokhran range. But more importantly, India also subsequently declared a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing.
While the world largely objected to “outsider” India’s tests, a look at the number of nuclear tests conducted by the five nuclear-powered NSG-cum-Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) members between 1975 and 1996 gives us some important insights. The five countries together conducted around 765 nuclear tests until the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1996. Even if we discount China and France, the number stays high. The issue with the NSG, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well as the NPT is only one: dominance of the nuclear powers over the non-nuclear nations. All three entities are discriminatory in nature. While they talk of “controlling, regulating, curbing” nuclear technology from going into rogue parties, the nuclear powers had always been involved in enhancing their nuclear capabilities. Did anyone of them impose an unilateral moratorium? Like India or for that matter even its 'arch-rival' Pakistan?
A new era for India
Criticism of elite nuclear groups being biased towards the five UNSC members has been levelled since the 1970s. There is nothing new about it, however, things have changed now. It is no longer bipolar — at least figuratively. The Soviet Union is history. The world is increasingly becoming multipolar.
In the globalised, post-Cold War era, India is no longer a country of snake charmers. Its economy has been doing well ever since it was liberalised in 1991. An open economy has helped India to chart its own course in foreign policy. Establishing full ties with Israel, re-establishing contacts with East Asian nations and more so, repairing ties with the US, marked the dawn of the new era for Indian foreign policy.
Any country that aspires to be a global power should start having an outward outlook. Remember, US' rise to the top coincided with the Paris Peace Conference (1920) where it played a pivotal role.
India’s new age foreign policy achieved what it could have never even thought about in the pre-Cold War era: a nuclear deal with the United States. While its implementation and effectiveness are matters of debate, the sheer magnitude of the deal is noteworthy.
The nuclear deal gave India a big waiver – to participate in nuclear trade without being in the NPT. We could now officially receive advanced nuclear technology from the US. Fair to say, the deal more or less legitimised India as a nuclear power.
The year 2008 also marked the beginning of India’s quest for a NSG seat. A major motivation behind the quest could have been the NSG waiver that it received as part of the nuclear deal.
Indeed, becoming a member of the elite cartel will give India unlimited access to superior technological know-how. With the technology in place, it can be utilised for electricity generation and other civilian purposes. India can effectively become a nuclear energy exporter, helping New Delhi come into the mainstream of the global nuclear trade.
The word “nuclear” evokes militaristic sentiments in India, which it must not. With a billion plus population, India can very well be the next emerging market for nuclear power generation. It is important to note that nuclear energy only contributes to about 2 percent of India’s power generation.
There are many factors going in favour of India’s candidature for the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Despite not being a member of any of the “nuclear clubs”, India has generally had a good record in adhering to required international standards. This was also acknowledged by the NSG in 2008 when the Indo-US nuclear deal was under discussion. More over, as I have pointed out earlier, India has imposed a moratorium over nuclear tests. This is sufficient evidence to highlight India’s commitment towards a peaceful world.
Add to that, the fact that India is now the member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). As pointed out by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), even China is not a member of the MTCR owing to its poor and shady non-proliferation record. But here comes the Sino-Pakistan angle that can wreck India’s interest.
Geo-political tangle
The geo-political tangle in Asia is intriguing. Pakistan, India’s arch-rival, too wants to enter the NSG. Recently, its foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz claimed that Islamabad’s credentials for a NSG seat is superior to New Delhi’s. This is laughable. Any person who has heard of AQ Khan will be amused by the octogenarian's statement.
For those unfamiliar with the saga, here is a brief: Bhopal-born AQ Khan is a nuclear scientist who while working in the Netherlands managed to sneak out the secret formula to create weapon-grade uranium. A national hero in Pakistan for helping it conduct its first nuclear test — Chagai I and II — he had a fall from grace when US authorities came to know of his involvement in leaking nuclear blueprints to rogue nations like North Korea and Libya.
Another fact that goes aginst Pakistan is the fear of its nuclear warheads falling into the hands of the Taliban or other non-state actors. And enough has been said and written about that.
Pakistan’s demand for a NSG seat stems out of its inferiority complex vis-à-vis India. The scars of partition and the quest to create an identity separate from India motivates Pakistan to try outsmart the former. In the process, however, it has only imitated India — be it in Bollywood or diplomacy.
Luckily, Pakistan has an “all-weather friend” in China. But it would be fair to say that the former needs the latter more than it is the other way round. Islamabad’s utility to Beijing has more to do with the nuisance it can create for India.
China is playing the “Pakistan card” to block India’s entry into the elite club. The reason is simple: If India enters the club, then it will achieve parity with China. That will be a setback for Beijing at a time when it is rising as the counter-weight to the US. With India becoming diplomatically and militarily powerful, the US will get to create a geo-political balance in Asia. It is a foregone conclusion that India as a member of the NSG will block Pakistan.
The stage is set for a showdown in Seoul. China – who after saying that India’s NSG membership would not be discussed in the plenary, made a U-turn – might raise India’s lack of NPT membership as an issue. It has also been pushing for a “consensus” among the 48 nations over the minimum membership requirements — mere delaying tactics to deny India its much-deserved membership. With most members backing India – including the US – it seems Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help India accede to the NSG. But China’s geo-political considerations can hamper its chances.
If and when India enters the club, it would be a red letter day in its diplomatic history. Till then, my fingers are crossed.

Firstpost India News

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