NSG: India’s untenable candidacy


Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

SINCE the signing of Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005, New Delhi has been enjoying Washington’s immense support in its pursuit of nuclear technology and material from foreign entities. The Bush Administration gigantically lobbied for India’s waiver from the Nuclear Supplier Group in 2008. India specific Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) waiver in 2008 has given New Delhi rights and privileges of civil nuclear trade that were reserved only for members having good standing under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1967. Moreover, implicitly, boost the technological sophistication of its nuclear weapons programme.
India’s non-compliance attitude not only upset a few NSG members, but also alarmed the Congressmen in the United States. Therefore, they expressed their reservations over India’s application to join the Group in May 2016.Senator Markey statement in a United States Senate hearing on May 24, 2016, was revealing. He pointed out that: “since 2008 when (we) also gave them an exemption, India has continued to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons programme virtually un-checked.” The senator categorically highlighted the dodgy attitude of New Delhi.
Ironically, despite New Delhi’s non-compliance to its promised commitments and unreliable conduct, Washington, once again, has been lobbying for India’s membership of Nuclear Supplier Group. The Obama Administration had tried to convince the members of the NSG to treat India’s application for the membership as a special case during the June 23-24, 2016, plenary meeting of the NSG in Seoul, South Korea. The attempt was failed due to China, New Zealand, Turkey, South Africa, Austria, etc. principled stance on the subject of India and Pakistan applications to join the NPT.
The Obama Administration, despite its failure in June 2016, has been endeavouring for India’s entry-into the NSG. Therefore, a special meeting of NSG may be convened in the following months. Nevertheless, the supporters of India’s NSG candidacy need to realize that India is not a responsible nuclear weapon state. Irrefutably, the 2008 NSG waiver had granted it the much sought after New Delhi’s de-jure nuclear weapon state status; enhanced India’s prestige and repute being a responsible nuclear weapon state in the region (which it is presently using to muster the support of the 48 members of the Group for its NSG candidacy); cemented Indo-US strategic partnership that resulted in bolstering India’s strategic capabilities, including nuclear weapons, offensive and defensive missiles potential.
But the 2008 NSG waiver failed to change the Indian leadership mindset or ensure India’s support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Thus, the special treatment of India, once again, would further deteriorate NSG credibility in particular and nuclear non-proliferation regime in general. Importantly, New Delhi built its first nuclear device, which was tested on May 18, 1974, by misusing Canadian and American civilian nuclear technological assistance. The CIRUS reactor was built by Canada, and its nuclear fuel was supplied by the United States.
The understanding between the supplier states and recipient India was that the latter would not use the CIRUS for military purposes. CIRUS operates under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Nevertheless, New Delhi violated the agreement and spent-fuel of the CIRUS reactor was diverted to made bomb grade plutonium for manufacturing and testing nuclear device on May 18, 1974. In simple words India cheated the IAEA safeguards.
The review of literature manifests that New Delhi has been using an array of trading companies to secretly acquire tons of tributyl phosphate, a chemical used to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Moreover, it’s an open secret that the India scientists with the connivance of government officials also transferred sensitive technology to other states. In 2004, for example, the United States State Department slapped sanctions on two Indian nuclear scientists alleged to have passed heavy-water technology to Iran. At least four Indian companies have been sanctioned over sales of missile technology to Tehran.
Today, India is not even willing for arms control. Hence, expecting any factual positive disarmament response from India is merely wishful thinking. It is an open secret that India has been increasing its fissile material for nuclear weapons. The trends indicate that New Delhi would not sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in near future.
The Indian scientific bureaucracy has been lobbying for thermonuclear test. It’s because on May 13, 1998, the fusion (H-bomb) stage of the thermonuclear (TN) device test was failed. K Santhanam, the test site preparations director in May 1998 disclosed in 2009 “what everyone else has known for a long time — that India’s 1998 test of a thermonuclear device was unsuccessful.” He added, “Based upon the seismic measurements and expert opinion from world over, it is clear that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed.
I think it is well documented and that is why I assert that India should not rush into signing the CTBT.” It was reported in the international press that India has been building a second top-secret site known as the Rare Materials Plant, 160 miles to the south of Challakere, near the city of Mysore. It would produce thermonuclear weapons. The facility would be completed sometime in 2017.Precisely, sooner India may conduct a thermonuclear test.
To conclude, New Delhi would not comply with its non-proliferation commitments, which it promised to the 48 members of NSG in 2008. Therefore, to keep NSG alive and effective, members of the Group ought to adopt non-discriminatory, criteria-based approach and disapprove India’s untenable candidacy for the Nuclear Supplier Group.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.