The NSG roulette wheel is spinning for India, and Tashkent may be the place where New Delhi’s ambition to be a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group could inch closer to fruition.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to the Uzbek capital for the SCO summit, all eyes will be on intense diplomatic outreach the Indian leader will launch to mobilise the critical support of Russia and China to back India’s entry into the elite 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Club that controls the flow of global nuclear materials and equipment.
Ahead of the crucial NSG meeting in Seoul June 24, Mr Modi telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin during which he is understood to have sought the support of India’s time-tested friend for membership of the NSG. With its warming relations with Beijing, Russia has some clout with China, the most formidable opponent of India’s entry into the NSG club. In Tashkent, Mr Modi is expected to meet Mr Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the SCO summit. In both interactions, besides a review of bilateral relations, India’s entry into NSG will top the agenda. Informed sources indicated that India is working on a plan for a quid pro quo with China whereby Beijing agrees to support India’s NSG bid in return for concessions like easier entry of Chinese companies into India and visa liberalisation for Chinese nationals.
China has opposed India’s entry on grounds that India’s entry into the NSG will subvert the existing global non-proliferation regime as it has yet to sign the NPT. China’s so-called principled opposition, however, emanates from a perception of rivalry with India as Beijing fears India’s NSG entry will bolster India’s nuclear capacity and its credentials as a global player. China is also pushing for its ally Pakistan’s entry into the NSG, for which there is hardly any support due to Islamabad’s record as a source of clandestine proliferation.
China’s stalling tactics, say informed sources, are reminiscent of its behaviour in the crucial weeks preceding the NSG waiver for India in September 2008, which paved the way for re-opening of global civil nuclear commerce with New Delhi. At that time, China finally agreed to support India due to overwhelming support for New Delhi in the NSG.
This time round also, India’s NSG campaign has acquired a critical momentum, with US President Barack Obama fully throwing weight behind New Delhi, and known non-proliferation hardliners like Switzerland declaring support for India. Mr Modi’s NSG diplomacy in Tashkent can, therefore, just swing the roulette for India’s long-cherished goal of getting inside the elite nuclear club as a full member.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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