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Political Sniping Follows India's Failure to Win Nuclear Suppliers Group Membership

Current Member States f the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Image by Lofo7 via Wikimedia Commons.

Current member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Image by Lofo7 via Wikimedia Commons.

India was riding high on the hope of joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) when it applied for membership on May 12. However, all hopes seemed to be dashed in NSG’s plenary meetings on 23-24 June in Seoul, where in the face of sturdy opposition from China and others, India’s entry into the NSG could not be confirmed.

The NSG was established in the immediate aftermath of India's first successful nuclear bomb test Pokhran I in 1974, which made India the first state outside of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to conduct nuclear tests. Despite India’s insistence that the nuclear tests were conducted for peaceful purposes, it caused a stir in the international political climate, forcing several states to embark on a mission to curb proliferation with renewed vigor.

NSG today works towards non-proliferation across the globe by controlling nuclear and nuclear-related exports, ensuring that nuclear technology transfer for peaceful purposes do not contribute to proliferation. NSG consists of 48 member states currently, which includes the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi meeting the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Mr. David Cameron, on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit 2016, in Washington DC on April 01, 2016. Image via Wikimedia Commons. BY-SA 2.0

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Mr. David Cameron, on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit 2016, in Washington DC on April 01, 2016. Image via Wikimedia Commons. BY-SA 2.0

India as a rising power wants to have a greater say in making the rules of the game that govern international politics and is also eyeing nuclear import benefits that it would derive from an NSG membership. Prime Minister Modi has given the matter priority on his foreign policy agenda, evidenced by his visits to Switzerland and Mexico as it became known that they had reservations about India's induction.

However, even though Mexico could be convinced to favour India's entry, Switzerland refused to budge from its position. Hence, in the face of opposition from the likes of Switzerland and China, India might have to wait a little longer before its NSG dream is realized.

The failure of the incumbent central government to attain NSG membership has invited a barrage of criticism from various opposition parties. Prime Minister Modi particularly has been at the receiving end of the vitriol as many have accused him of failing to demonstrate astute diplomatic skills in garnering support for India's induction.

Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the main opposition party Indian National Congress  tweeted after it became known that India was not getting an immediate entry into the NSG:

Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashish Khetan reminded followers of India's procurement of the NSG waiver in 2008 amidst similar opposition from China, blaming Modi squarely for his diplomatic failure:

Delhi's current Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pointed out the futility of Modi's foreign visits:

Modi's failure to obtain for India a place at the NSG has been compared frequently with the 2008 NSG waiver in which India had got a nuclear trade license after being barred from being able to do so for nearly three decades prior.

However, many have come forward in support of Modi and spoken against the antagonistic politics, such as author and entrepreneur Suhel Seth and CNN-IBN politics editor Pallavi Ghosh:

Others have focused on the significance of India's entry into the NSG, like commentator Brahma Chellaney and India Today editor Shiv Aroor:

India has identified China as the chief conniver in blocking its NSG membership on the grounds that India is not a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. China’s opinion was echoed by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Turkey.

However, there is still a fighting chance for India to be included in the NSG, media reports suggest. The US seems particularly keen on having India inducted and discussions towards that end could begin towards the end of the year.

NSG is not likely to be the last stop for India since it also covets memberships to the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australian Group — all in an effort to provide itself leverage in nuclear politics of the world. In this context, NSG is of critical importance to India. However, it remains to be seen how India overcomes the China hurdle on its path to NSG inclusion and if Modi succeeds in his diplomatic manoeuvre to get India admitted into NSG — the good peoples’ nuke club.


  • Ramanujam

    I suppose Rag Ga can get us admitted to the NSG or Madame Sonia. Let them help the Govt to get into the group. Sri Modiji has tried manfully. Wonder what RaGa is doing, disappearing for one month after a stay in India for one month. How will Kejriwal deal? I suppose he does not need any such thing because by his own admission he is an anarchist. Possibly Pakistan will view him favorably. Talking is cheap. It doesn’t cost anything. So keep talking guys.

  • Ramanujam

    Delhi is the Capital City of India. Not Kejriwal’s pocket bureau. It is not a separate country under the overlordship of Kejriwal and his group. Kejriwal is will soon be shown his place by the people of Delhi.

  • […] by Sohini Chatterjee · comments (2) Donate · Share this: twitter facebook reddit […]

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