Sultan M Hali
THE Nuclear Suppliers Group’s 2016 annual plenary, began in Seoul this week and one of the decisions is likely to be to critically examine membership requests from both India and Pakistan. India, which submitted its membership application on May 12, the 18th anniversary of its nuclear tests in 1998, has walked the extra mile to ensure a positive response to its admission to the NSG.
It is ironic that the NSG, which was formed in 1974, in response to India’s first nuclear test, to prevent further proliferation, is now even considering India’s membership. The NSG is one of the main tools for controlling the exports and proliferation of materials that could potentially be used in making weapons of mass destruction. It also tacks the black market trade of nuclear technologies.
It is equally ironic that India’s track record in nuclear proliferation has been pathetic that two Indian nuclear scientists, Dr C Surinder Chaudhary and Dr YSR Prasad were found guilty of engaging in Proliferation activities and were put under sanctions by the US State Department on September 29, 2004 when the State Department took the action under Non-Proliferation Act 200 through Public Notice No-4845, notified it in the Federal Register as 69FR 58212 Notice.
President Obama has called on NSG participating governments to support India’s application at the NSG plenary. Mr Modi, who was refused visit visas to Europe and the US for his alleged indulgence in the 2002 genocide in the Indian State of Gujarat, when he was Chief Minister, has made full use of his backing by reaching out to all 48 members of the NSG to support India’s membership. Everyone in the US is not excited by the prospects of India getting the NSG membership. Some opinion makers, legislators and nuclear experts warned the Obama administration not to push forward India’s application. A “New York Times” editorial titled ‘India’s membership of the NSG is not merited until the country meets the group’s standards’ warned that India could block Pakistan’s entry into NSG, if it got in earlier.
The daily has pragmatically warned that the relationship with India rests on a dangerous bargain. For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for India’s nuclear program to maintain India’s cooperation on trade and to counter China’s growing influence. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a civilian nuclear deal with India that allowed it to trade in nuclear materials. This has encouraged Pakistan to keep expanding a nuclear weapons program that is already the fastest growing in the world. Membership would enhance India’s standing as a nuclear weapons state, but it is not merited until the country meets the group’s standards. Pakistan, which also has a black mark, the AQ Khan episode, has come a long way in adhering to nuclear safety and security standards since then. It submitted its membership application on May 19, a week after India.
China, however, is being pragmatic in its approach. It is not resisting the Indian application out of spite, but is arguing that it would enhance a nuclear competition in South Asia by isolating Pakistan. China wants the group to admit Pakistan as well, pointing out that both India and Pakistan possessed nuclear weapons and had not signed the NPT. While China may not force the NSG to admit Pakistan, it can block India as new members are admitted with a consensus of the existing members. Under the circumstances, one can hope that the NSG will decide the case on merit and not be guided by biases or obvious tilts.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.