The United States continues to back India’s bid for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group under President Donald Trump in keeping with the bipartisan support that ties between the two countries enjoyed irrespective of the party in power.
“The United States supports India’s full membership in the four multilateral export control regimes, and we believe that India is ready for NSG membership,” PTI news agency reported quoting a state department spokesperson.
“We have worked and continue to work closely with our Indian counterparts and the NSG Participating Governments to help advance India’s case for membership,” the spokesperson added.
It could not be immediately confirmed if the new government would do more than the Obama administration, whose support seemed to lack the aggression of the Bush administration’s backing for the NSG waiver for the India-US nuclear deal in 2008.
India applied for membership of the 48-country group, which controls global sale and purchase of nuclear material and equipment, in March 2016, and has since aggressively campaigned its case around the world, with US backing.
But Washington’s support has been viewed, at least in New Delhi, as less enthusiastic than before, falling short of the nuclear deal negotiations that have come to be seen as the gold-standard for measuring the depth and intensity of ties.
China has emerged as the leading opponent of India’s application citing the latter’s refusal to sign the non-proliferation treaty, which New Delhi has historically called discriminatory. Beijing has refused to budge despite several discussions.
Many in New Delhi and Washington have maintained Obama administration had not campaigned for India as aggressively as it did in 2008 to grant a waiver for the India-US civil nuclear deal to go through.
“The most important thing that the administration can do, like we did in 2008, is to signal to China and the other holdouts that getting India into the NSG is singularly important to the United States and to the president personally,” Ashley Tellis, a former US official closely involved with the signing of the nuclear deal, told Hindustan Times earlier.
He had added: “We forced the holdouts to choose between persisting with their opposition and damaging their ties with Washington and with New Delhi.”
The US president George W Bush had personally telephoned his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to support the waiver.
“In a sense, we called in all the chips we had with friends, adversaries, and those in-between,” Tellis had said. “We played to win, not to persuade. And we won.”
Will the Trump administration go the extra length? Or, more importantly, can it, given its own issues with China, arising of the president’s campaign rhetoric and promise?