NEW DELHI: India on Monday gained crucial support from Switzerland for its bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) days ahead of a key meeting of the 48-member atomic trading club to consider New Delhi’s candidature.
Experts, however, have questioned whether India will be able to overcome opposition from countries such as China at the NSG’s extraordinary plenary meeting in Vienna during June 9-10.
Seeking the backing of key NSG members such as Switzerland, the US and Mexico are important elements of Prime Minister’s five-nation tour. Hours after he flew into Geneva, Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann announced his country’s backing for India’s membership after talks with Modi.
“We have promised India support in its efforts to become a member of NSG,” SchneiderAmmann said. Modi thanked him for Switzerland’s “understanding and support”.
Modi is expected to lobby the United States and Mexico for backing India’s candidature on the next two stops of his tour. The US and numerous other NSG members have supported India’s inclusion based on its non-proliferation record.
However, China, acting at the behest of its close ally Pakistan, has linked India’s membership to the inclusion of Pakistan.
The NSG operates on the principles of unanimity and consensus and India’s bid for membership can be scuttled if it is opposed by even one member.
Without naming Pakistan, China has said “many other non-NPT members have voiced their aspirations to join the NSG”. It has said the issue should be discussed further and “decided by consensus among all NSG members” since India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Analysts in the US believe India’s NSG application is in a “precarious position” because of China’s contention that the same exceptions should be made for Pakistan.
“Pakistan and China have played their cards really well this time around. Pakistan has an application for NSG membership and China can, therefore, argue what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Micheal Krepon, a nuclear proliferation expert and co-founder of the Stimson Center think tank in Washington, was quoted as saying by ANI.
Any move to include Pakistan in the NSG will “compound the nuclear proliferation consequences because India becomes saddled with Pakistan’s terrible track record”, he said.
Despite the opposition from Beijing, New Delhi is pushing its bid alongside an effort to first gain entry to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), another crucial export control regime.
The MTCR is a club of 34 countries that controls trade in missile and space technology and Italy was the only country that had opposed India’s entry because of a row over two Italian marines. With both the marines back in Italy, Rome is no longer expected to oppose India’s candidature and a top government official told Hindustan Times that India’s membership of the MTCR is expected to be announced when Modi is in Washington on June 7.
India has been pushing for NSG membership for several years and made a formal application on May 12. Membership of the group is expected to give a major boost to India’s efforts to expand the atomic energy sector since it will have unfettered access to nuclear technology and know-how.