NEW YORK - A leading American newspaper Sunday urged the United States not to try and win for India membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) "through a special exception" until New Delhi meets the 48-member elite body's standards and open talks with Pakistan and China on curbing nuclear weapons.

Ahead of US visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, The New York Times said in a lead editorial that President Barack Obama should press for India to adhere to the standards on nuclear proliferation to which other nuclear weapons states adhere.

India's application for NSG membership is scheduled to come up for discussion at the group's meeting later this month.

"Membership would enhance India’s standing as a nuclear weapons state, but it is not merited until the country meets the group’s standards," the Times aid.

"Mr Obama is lobbying for India to win membership through a special exception," The Times editorial board noted. "If he succeeds, India would be in a position to keep Pakistan, which has also applied for membership, from gaining membership because group decisions must be unanimous," the editorial said, adding that this could give Pakistan, which at one time provided nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran, new incentives to misbehave.

Opposition from China, which is close to Pakistan and views India as a rival, could doom India's bid for now, it said, adding that the issue, however, will not go away. India is growing in importance and seeking greater integration into organisations that govern international affairs, it said.

"If it wants recognition as a nuclear weapons state, it should be required to meet the nuclear group's standards, including opening negotiations with Pakistan and China on curbing nuclear weapons and halting the production of nuclear fuel for bombs," the editorial said.

The editorial said that for years the US had sought to bend the rules for India's nuclear programme to maintain India's cooperation on trade and to counter China's growing influence.

"As part of the 2008 deal, the Indians promised they would be 'ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices' as other nations with advanced nuclear technology. But they have fallen far short by continuing to produce fissile material and to expand their nuclear arsenal," the editorial board of the newspaper said.

The NSG governs trade in nuclear-related exports and aims to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military uses.

The following is the text of the editorial:

"America’s relationship with India has blossomed under President Obama, who will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. Ideally, Mr Obama could take advantage of the ties he has built and press for India to adhere to the standards on nuclear proliferation to which other nuclear weapons states adhere.

"The problem, however, is that the relationship with India rests on a dangerous bargain. For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for India’s nuclear programme to maintain India’s cooperation on trade and to counter China’s growing influence. In 2008, President George W Bush signed a civilian nuclear deal with India that allowed it to trade in nuclear materials. This has encouraged Pakistan to keep expanding a nuclear weapons programme that is already the fastest growing in the world.

"Now, India has Mr Obama’s strong support in its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 48-nation body that governs trade in nuclear-related exports and aims to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military uses. Membership would enhance India’s standing as a nuclear weapons state, but it is not merited until the country meets the group’s standards.

"All group members have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, either as nuclear weapons states (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China) or as non-nuclear weapons states (everybody else). India has refused, which means it has not accepted legally binding commitments to pursue disarmament negotiations, halt the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and not test nuclear weapons.

"President (George W) Bush squandered an opportunity to demand more of India when he signed the 2008 deal, which opened the door to American trade in nuclear technology for civilian energy, something India had insisted was a prerequisite to more cooperation and lucrative business deals.

"As part of the 2008 deal, the Indians promised they would be “ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices” as other nations with advanced nuclear technology. But they have fallen far short by continuing to produce fissile material and to expand their nuclear arsenal.

"The Nuclear Suppliers Group is to discuss India’s application later this month. Mr Obama is lobbying for India to win membership through a special exception. If he succeeds, India would be in a position to keep Pakistan, which has also applied for membership, from gaining membership because group decisions must be unanimous. That could give Pakistan, which at one time provided nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran, new incentives to misbehave.

"Opposition from China, which is close to Pakistan and views India as a rival, could doom India’s bid for now. But the issue will not go away. India is growing in importance and seeking greater integration into organisations that govern international affairs. If it wants recognition as a nuclear weapons state, it should be required to meet the nuclear group’s standards, including opening negotiations with Pakistan and China on curbing nuclear weapons and halting the production of nuclear fuel for bombs."