Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an interaction session at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum pitched for India's inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) saying that the country faces a challenge in nuclear energy because it is not a member of the group of nuclear supplier countries and faces issues of supply of fuel.
What is the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a 48 member grouping that was formed in the aftermath of India’s 1974 nuclear test with the aim of ensuring non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology.
- From India’s point of view, it was formed to deny India access to sophisticated technology.
- NSG members: The 48 members of the NSG include the five nuclear-weapon states, US, UK, France, China, and Russia. The other 43 are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
- India is not a signatory to the NPT which it calls discriminatory.
- It was a civil nuclear deal with the US, concluded in 2008 that paved the way for India’s application as a member of the NSG.
What would NSG membership mean for India?
For India, membership of the NSG means:
- Access to technology:
- Membership of NSG which is essentially a traders’ cartel will give India access to technology for a range of uses from medicine to building nuclear power plants.
- India has its own indigenously developed technology but to get its hands on state of the art technology that countries within the NSG possess, it has to become part of the group.
- Clean energy push:
- With India committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources, there is a pressing need to scale up nuclear power production.
- This can only happen if India gains access to the NSG.
- Commercialize production:
- With access to the latest technology, India can commercialize the production of nuclear power equipment.
- This, in turn, will boost innovation and high tech manufacturing in India and can be leveraged for economic and strategic benefits.
- For example, Should India get access to advanced nuclear technologies, it can start building updated versions of its own fast breeder reactor and sell it to countries such as Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. Bangladesh is currently looking at buying Russian reactors for power generation.
- Push to Make in India:
- Having the ability to offer its own nuclear power plants to the world means spawning of an entire nuclear industry and related technology development.
- This could give the Make in India program a big boost.
- It will help domestic firms:
- A place on the nuclear trading table will help Indian companies such as the Walchandnagar Industries Limited (WIL) and L&T to expand the business.
- India has a robust indigenous nuclear industry that worked mostly in isolation as international sanctions were slapped every time a nuclear test was conducted.
- An NSG membership will make these companies comply with international norms and make it easier for them to ply their trade abroad.
What is stopping India from getting the membership?
- While India is backed by the US and a number of western countries has garnered the support of a majority of the group's members, China is adamant that new members should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), making India's entry difficult as the group is guided by the consensus principle.
- But China is supporting Pakistan’s membership which is also not an NPT signatory.
- Other than China, countries that are opposing India’s inclusion in the NSG are Turkey, South Africa, Ireland, and New Zealand.
- None of China's contentions appears to hold much water.
- Membership of NPT is only a guideline, a consideration, and not a mandatory requirement while deciding on a country's application to NSG.
- India's track-record in observing the provisions of NPT and NSG while not being a member of either body is impeccable.
- If NSG was able to grant a waiver to India in 2008 on the basis of its past performance, it should have no objection to admitting it as a member this time.
- India’s nuclear technologies are indigenously developed and it has a clean nonproliferation record unlike Pakistan whose non-proliferation record was tainted with the revelations that its nuclear scientist A.Q Khan sold nuclear technologies to countries such as North Korea.
- Also, India became a Member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) on 7 June 2016 whereas China is still not a member of the MTCR, although it put in its application in 2004, because several members have concerns about China’s dubious proliferation record in supplying missile technology to countries like Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea.
- The 2008 waiver by NSG does provide significant possibilities to India to engage in civilian nuclear trade with other countries and India has entered into such agreements with several countries like Russia, France, UK, US, Kazakhstan, Australia, and others.
- But membership of NSG will provide greater certainty and legal foundation to India's nuclear regime.
- This would also provide greater confidence to countries who invest billions of dollars for setting up ambitious nuclear power projects in India and hence India must continue to use diplomacy to gain entry in the group.