Accepting a Nuclear India
Image Credit: White House

Accepting a Nuclear India

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The international community is now looking at how best to bring India into multilateral nuclear export control regimes. During his November 2010 visit to India, US President Barack Obama delivered a number of speeches and issued a joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that contained some significant policy pronouncements, particularly over the accommodation of India in US and multilateral export control regimes.

Obama announced, for example, that the United States would support India’s candidature in the four multilateral export control regimes—the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. India meets all the criteria for membership of the MTCR, although it may have to add a few items to its dual use technology control list to meet the criteria for the Australia Group. But for membership in the strategically key NSG and Wassenaar Arrangement, there’s a significant sticking point in the form of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

After Obama’s announcement supporting India’s membership, France and Russia also offered their support, and the idea that India might be given membership incrementally gained some traction. It was generally believed that the Australia Group would come first, followed by the MTCR and the NSG and the Wassenaar Arrangement in that order. However, the Indian establishment wants membership to come as a package, a position broadly supported by the Indian strategic community. As this message has been sent out around the world, concerned global players have two options: either deny or accept India’s membership of all regimes.

And, with India’s economy performing well even during the global financial crisis (and with it being an equally important producer, client and consumer of advanced technology) other nations may well have no choice but to accommodate India. Indeed, the process of accommodation seems to have already begun. Analysts and non-governmental experts are being consulted over how India might best be included in the regimes, and although there’s so far little news on official interactions, the fact that the non-governmental community has been sounded out has prompted much speculation.

Unfortunately, the ongoing counter-arguments to accommodating India’s position were given voice in a short essay entitled ‘NSG Membership: A Criteria-based Approach for Non-NPT States,’ penned by Pierre Goldschmidt for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Although the essay maintains a semblance of objectivity, it sadly reflects the prejudice prevalent in parts of the US non-proliferation community. The very first paragraph, for example, opens with the cliché: ‘The nuclear policy community widely believes this (the 2008 NSG guidelines) exemption undermines the credibility of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.’ But while some point to the China-Pakistan deal for building additional reactors at the Chashma complex as an example of what US accommodating of India has led to, even a novice in the field should know that Pakistan and China would have cut the deal irrespective of the India-specific exemptions. After all, the Pakistan-China deal was made on the basis of a grandfather clause of a previous unseen agreement, while it’s hard to believe that Pakistan's blocking of negotiations for the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty at last year’s Conference on Disarmament wouldn’t have happened anyway.

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