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Why India’s NSG ambition may still be a distant dream

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have scored a measure of diplomatic victory by winning Swiss backing for entry into the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) but, due to China’s continuous opposition, India will still have to wait a bit longer to break into the elite club that regulates global nuclear trade.

China has also been insisting that if any concession is given to India, a non-signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the same should apply to Pakistan that has allegedly been caught selling atomic weapons technology to Libya.

China’s argument has saddled India’s NSG bid with Pakistan’s bad track record. Analysts here say that this has put India’s application in a precarious situation for its entry into the grouping that works on the principle of consensus and allows a new member only if all existing members agree.

New members are admitted largely if they agree to be part of the NPT or Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India has signed neither on the ground that they are discriminatory.

India is keen on entering the NSG group because it controls nuclear commercial activities and technology transfers in the world. Its membership will also grant India global acceptance as a nuclear-armed power and equal footing with others.

India has the capacity to export nuclear fuel like thorium and supply nuclear technology in the future. That is not possible for a non-NSG state. Also, the membership will give India an edge over Pakistan, handing it a strategic clout to block Pakistan’s possible bid to enter the grouping.

India’s NSG application is expected to come up for review at the NSG meeting in Vienna on Thursday and Friday. It has already got the support of major NSG countries, including France, Russia, Britain, Japan, Mexico and the US.

Pakistan has also filed its application and since it doesn’t have support of major powers, it is unlikely to be taken up.

“Every country’s vote matters. Both Switzerland and Mexico are very important. But unless China is persuaded, it will be difficult,” said Bhaskar, one of India’s leading security and strategic affairs experts.

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