The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was created in the wake of India’s nuclear debauchery epitomised by its so called “peaceful “nuclear weapons test in May 1974. That gave India the singular and rather dubious distinction of being the “original sinner and the foremost proliferator of nuclear weapons in the world”.
The underlying and vivid message sent to the entire world was that nuclear weapons status was there for the taking; albeit through theft, deceit, stealth and betrayal! The message echoed and resonated around the globe and its import was registered by most. In one fell swoop, the Indians nullified the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), destroyed the existing nuclear equilibrium of the world, nuclearized the Indo-Pak subcontinent and gave nuclear ambitions to many aspirants.
Most importantly, it dealt a fait accompli to a truncated Pakistan leaving it with no option but to strive for that critical strategic balance so vital for its survival. An endless nuclear arms (and missiles) race in the Indo-Pak subcontinent and the region was but inevitable!
Outraged and feeling thoroughly cheated the international community created the NSG to check “further” nuclear proliferation and regulate trade in materials that could be used in nuclear weapons. In 1992 the NSG applied full scale IAEA safeguards for all such exports and trades literally putting India out of the legitimate nuclear trade market.
However, emerging geopolitical compulsions caused new alignments on the global stage. China’s meteoric rise compelled the US to incorporate India as a “strategic partner of the 21st century” to counterbalance it. In 2008 it signed a highly controversial Civil Nuclear Deal with India and undertook to make it a full member of the NSG - a group that ironically owed its very birth and existence to the latter’s nuclear deceit, betrayal and thievery in the first place.
India’s membership of the NSG is thus a very contentious issue. Its case is being pushed vociferously by the US and its coterie of western allies, motivated essentially by geopolitical and commercial interests. The US-led West (including Australia and Japan now) intends to strengthen India in the economic, military and nuclear realms and then prop it up as a credible counterbalance to China (a classic case study in US’ offshore balancing strategy!). Thereafter, it will exploit this major market for trade in the nuclear fuel and power, dual use technologies, military and purely commercial sectors as well. The US-led West however, remains selfishly and deliberately oblivious to its debilitating impact on all international covenants and regimes and in the highly sensitive regional, geopolitical and geostrategic dimensions.
China, on the other hand, has a fair, just and principled criteria- based approach and wants all non-signatories to the NPT, including India, to be treated at par. It has recently sought international discussions on the subject. China and many in the international community consider the NSG an essential part of the non-proliferation regime which is built upon the NPT. The NPT Review Conference recently reiterated that signing the NPT was a pre-requisite to joining the NSG.
The fundamental principle at stake here then is whether a non-signatory of the NPT can become a member of the NSG or not? If not, then India has no case at all. If yes, then what is the rationale to make an exception for India only? What is more important here; principles and propriety, the sanctity and credibility of all types of international covenants and regimes or the crass commercial and geopolitical interests of some powers? The answer to this basic question will determine the viability and future status of all international nuclear regimes, especially the NPT. So, if it is the NSG for India (and Israel?) today, will it be the MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group tomorrow? Where will this self-serving rape of international stability and good order by the US-led West stop? It will lead to severe polarisation, regionally and globally. What will, for example, deter China or Russia or both together from pursuing their interests in a similar manner?
If Pakistan’s alleged indiscretions cannot be overlooked then what is the rationale for sweeping India’s original nuclear debauchery under the carpet? In actual fact India pioneered the way to clandestinely acquiring nuclear weapons. It stole plutonium and heavy water (from CIRUS the Canada and US supplied and sustained reactor) and duped the world about the test. How has its nuclear program become kosher now when its very birth was clearly illegitimate? That it has a so called “impeccable non-proliferation record thereafter” scandalously defies good sense, logic and credibility.
As a member of the NSG India will have access to international supplies of fuel for its civil nuclear power programs freeing up its entire indigenous production for military purposes, thus throwing the strategic balance in the region seriously off kilter! The impact on Pakistan will be drastic. Ostracised and discriminated against, Pakistan will not allow itself to be singled out and subjected to biased international regimes, too. It will be compelled to restore the aggravated strategic balance in the region. Its position on the FMCT and CTBT will harden further. Its production of all types of fissile materials will continue unabated. Its emphasis on “full spectrum deterrence” and an early completion of the nuclear triad will stand reinforced. TNWs will continue to form an inevitable part of its defensive strategy, enhancing its options. The balance of terror in the Indo-Pak subcontinent will acquire even more ominous dimensions. India and its armed forces will thus, by default, always remain Pakistan centric. China’s presence on Pakistan’s Mekran Coast will exert yet another pull on India and distract it from pursuing US interests in the Asia Pacific. Quite possibly, a new China-Russia-Pakistan-(Iran-?) nexus just might emerge to challenge the Indo-US axis in the region.
This US’ endeavour to get India into the NSG, as a prelude to it becoming a credible counterpoise to China, may eventually become counter-productive and even hasten to crystallize multi-polarity.
China’s principled and criteria based approach to the issue needs to be seriously heeded by the US-led West!