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China will give India, US a hard time at NSG

The noises emanating from China suggest that the India-US civil nuclear deal could face a veto from Beijing at the NSG, reports Amit Baruah.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2007 03:07 IST
Amit Baruah

It could be a bargaining chip vis-à-vis the United States, but the noises emanating from China suggest that the India-US civil nuclear deal could face a veto from Beijing at the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG).



The Chinese haven't exactly come out with a formal position, but the State-run

People's Daily

newspaper, which reflects official thinking, has slammed the Indo-US civil nuclear initiative.



In any case, the Chinese would prefer not to reveal their hand publicly before a special NSG meeting, which will have to be convened by the US since India is not a member of the Group.



Washington, the

People's Daily

wrote on Tuesday, had double standards on the "nuclear issue of India" and had sent a signal to the world which eroded its authority in the international arena, undermined the "existing non-proliferation system" and damaged global efforts towards non-proliferation.



Given that all decisions at the 45-nation NSG are taken by consensus, the Chinese could create major problems in the path of allowing nuclear commerce with India.



In fact, the nuclear deal clearing the NSG is critical for India. If the deal gets the green signal from the NSG, then India will be free to buy nuclear reactors and fuel from any of the 45 countries.



Countries like France and Russia are ready to do civil nuclear business with India as soon as the NSG guidelines are relaxed for India.



Indian officials fear the Chinese might well argue that it makes no sense to make an exception only for New Delhi at the NSG. After all, there are other countries that might qualify for the same benefits. Also, the NSG itself was created to target India in the wake of its 1974 nuclear tests.



New Delhi's case in relation to China hasn't been helped by the kinds of comments emanating from the United States: that India can be used as a strategic counterweight against China.



"India is a booming democracy of more than 1 billion people, clearly destined to play a growing role on the world stage. It can help the United States as a trading partner and as a strategic counterweight against China,"

The Washington Post

said in a recent editorial.



As can be expected, the

People's Daily

take on the issue was different: "It is quite obvious that the US generosity in helping India to develop nuclear energy is partly due to the hegemony idea, which made it (sic) regardless of others' opinions, and partly due to the intention of drawing India in as a tool for its global strategic pattern."



The recent quadripartite consultations, involving Japan, the US, India and Australia, pointedly excluded China, creating fissures in the New Delhi-Beijing bilateral equation. Clearly, the Chinese have interpreted these talks as directed against itself.



Down under, the Australians, too, are feeling the effects of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Prime Minister John Howard, who quickly moved to announce conditional sales of uranium to India, is under fire from the opposition as well as the non-proliferation lobby.



Howard argued that selling uranium to India would lead to "increased exports and jobs over the longer term." India, according to the Prime Minister, planned to build 11 new reactors to triple her energy generation from nuclear power and is projected to need up to 12,000 tonnes of uranium per annum to 2032.



The

Sydney Morning Herald

argued that selling uranium to India was not a "dangerous exception" and "no more contradictory than selling uranium to China".



The paper wrote glowingly about the Indian position, "It shows every sign of sticking to deterrence doctrines similar to those of older nuclear powers, and pledges no first use and no use against non-nuclear adversaries. Indirectly, our uranium will let it make more bombs, but for us it is a responsible and benign power."



There's little doubt that the Australians — after raising all hell after the May 1998 nuclear tests — have come to the conclusion that selling uranium to India is a better option than trying to ostracise it for not signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).