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Why India will be Kept Out of the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Ruhee Neog

India-Pakistan, South Asia

 Tying India’s entry with that of Pakistan’s is an effective delay tactic.

Ahead of this month’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary, at which the consideration of India’s membership is expected, a couple of things have happened in quick succession. China announced its opposition to permitting non-Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) members into the NSG, and Pakistan, citing its observance of NSG guidelines, made an application for membership. The United States, which has been quite vociferous in its support for India’s membership, and has, for some time, lobbied NSG members for their positive vote, reiterated its traditional line. Of the 48 members of the NSG, three players—China, the “non-proliferation hardliner” countries, and the United States—will play an important role in deciding which way the vote will sway.

First, China’s position, although premised on the principled-sounding “non-admittance of non-NPT signatory” argument, takes into account wider geostrategic calculations. Its opposition, though not new, is primarily based on two factors: keeping India out, and keeping Pakistan pegged with India.

Beijing’s “non-NPT” argument is not so much a matter of principle as it is resistance to India being granted the same privileges as China, an NPT signatory. NSG membership would give India greater access to the international nuclear market, and to the perks and benefits that China enjoys. In addition to opening up nuclear commerce, the NSG can be a source of legitimacy for a nuclear-armed state outside of the NPT, and for regional power projection.

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