Pete Souza
World News /21 Jun 2016
and 06.21.16

Should India be a Member of the NSG?

India’s emphasis on the paramountcy of regional and international groupings dates back to its independence. It has consistently invested in the notion of collective action for the establishment of one world. After India’s contesting claim to UNSC permanent seat, we are witnessing India’s endeavor to become a part of a peaceful nuclear club, Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-nation group which frames and implements agreed rules for exporting nuclear equipment, with a view to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons. India’s application for membership in the NSG is set to come up for discussion at the group’s plenary meeting in Seoul, South Korea on June 24 where member states will contemplate the question of India’s acceptance into the NSG. As India eagerly awaits the decision, it is important to reflect on ‘if and why’ India should be granted membership.

India as a peaceful nuclear power

India has received support from various member states for membership, but not all ie China and Pakistan. Their opposition offers two main arguments.

First, if India will be treated as an off-case, overriding few criteria, then Pakistan should be given the same opportunity. Second, India’s access to nuclear resources through the NSG will jeopardize the peace of South Asia and probably promotes an arms race.

India’s peaceful past counters these arguments effectively. Though nuclear The acquisition of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan is based on threats from their neighbors although India still adhered to the morals argument of non-proliferation. India has remained a responsible nuclear country with no first use policy.

Being signatory of NPT as the false criteria

Another set of criticisms is that India cannot be a part of the NSG as it is not a signatory of NPT, which marks as one of the criteria of the membership. But, it can be argued that it is not the primary criteria although the NPT and the NSG share objectives, but the former is a binding treaty and latter is a group.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said “I think there is some confusion here. Even the NPT allows civil nuclear cooperation with non-NPT countries. If there is a connection, it is between the NSG and IAEA safeguards and with export controls.”

Though India did not sign NPT as the treaty conflicted with its national interest,that did not hinder India from maintaining morality and accountability in the usage of nuclear resources. Thus, India has adhered to NPT’s principles without being a signatory of the same. In fact it would India performed better than some of the signatories.

IAEA and global nuclear norms

India’s non-engagement in dubious activities with regards to nuclear energy, and its adherence to norms such as “no-first-use” have contributed trust building. Apart from this, its friendly relationship with the IAEA and the declaration of a voluntary moratorium on further underground nuclear tests show that India is a responsible nuclear country.

In terms of domestic application of energy, India’s push towards clean energy has been slow, but persistent. With India commitment to reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, there is a pressing need to scale up nuclear power production since the main forms of alternate energy India utilities are restricted to non-nuclear renewables. This can be complemented with nuclear energy if India gains access to the NSG as it will act as a positive driver for reducing dependence on exhaustible sources of energy. These efforts are in line with international goals of controlling climate change. If groups and bodies like the NSG appreciate and assist India in such developments, it benefits not just India, but the world community at large.

Change in India’s image

Since the NSG was created in 1974 as a reaction to India’s nuclear tests to stop ‘the misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes’; the recent turn of events in favor of India seem rather intriguing. It is an indication of two shifts.

Shift in the manner in which other states view India. Some experts have suggested that the significance of such a membership is more symbolic than practical in nature since there are no major restrictions on India’s access to nuclear power, especially after the Indo-US nuclear deal. This in itself implies that trust has been built in the eyes of major states, most importantly, the US.

Shift in India’s attitude towards nuclear power. The above is accompanied by India’s realization that the definition of power has evolved. This can be understood by comparing India’s desire to become nuclear in 1974 and its desire to become a member of NSG today. The overpowering reason behind both is more or less same, i.e. the thirst for India to create a place for herself. Membership grants India a respectable place in the international and the regional arena.

Significance of India’s inclusion to the NSG

Symbolism holds value for everyone. It is not just India which needs the NSG, the vice versa is true as well, though not to the same degree. The aim of the NSG guidelines is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Granting membership to India would be an achievement on part of the NSG as the nation which was thought to support proliferation its nuclear weapons now wants to be a part of the same group which was created to keep a check on it. India’s inclusion would also symbolize an evolution from merely restrictive regimes to inclusive and development-oriented regimes. On a larger scale, it can also help build trust in transnational and international organizations if it includes more nations of the so-called ‘third world.’

Nuclear energy for civilian purposes, especially electricity can be a boon for India. The energy usage of India makes a difference to the world as it has the potential to have an impact on our environment, owing to its 1.2 billion mark. This might be a long term process but membership to the NSG has the capacity to push India and the world closer to climate change control and other developmental goals.

So, our verdict is a yes to India’s membership in the NSG. It is time we move past restricted definitions of inclusivity and expand and grow together. India has proved itself to be a responsible nuclear state and this should be appreciated so that other nations, which are not members of the NSG feel the urge to evolve in the same manner.

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