The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a 48-nation exclusive export control regime dedicated to curbing nuclear arms proliferation while promoting safe international nuclear commerce for civil nuclear energy. After receiving a country-specific waiver for the India-United States Civil Nuclear Agreement from the NSG in 2008, most western nations advocated for India’s inclusion into the NSG, even Russia has expressed unconditional support for India. The sole outlier for the major powers remains China, though China could benefit from supporting India’s membership.
Instead, China has spearheaded a diplomatic campaign to thwart India’s entry into the NSG. Doubling down on efforts to link India with China’s all-weather friend Pakistan, China has grasped at rationales to prevent India’s NSG membership.
China has articulated three main pseudo-arguments against India’s entry into the NSG. The first is that India is not a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT) of 1968 and allowing India to join does not comport with the greater non-proliferation agenda. Also, India’s entry might disturb the strategic balance in the Indian sub-continent, further encouraging Pakistan to take more desperate measures to seek strategic parity with India. Lastly, China argues that the NSG should be based on specific criteria, rather than selectively choosing suitable nations for entry.
On all three counts, China is using clever sophistry to block India’s long overdue entry into the NSG. Whereas the roots of China’s obstructionist view stems from China’s strategic insecurity and fears of another rising Asian nation in the international geo-political theatre.
Let us discuss China’s pseudo-arguments point by point. France’s NSG membership, in 1975, despite not being a signatory of the NPT until 1992, thus creating precedence for a non-signatory of NPT becoming a member of the NSG. China’s second argument, again fallacious, attempting to adjoin Pakistan’s nuclear program with that of India. Pakistan’s aggressive assertions regarding the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons against India, is a vast departure from India’s peaceful and defensive nuclear posture. Particularly considering India’s need for nuclear energy to support a burgeoning economy and population, and to minimize the use of fossil fuels to support current climate change initiatives.
In addition to France, there are only four countries that are non-signatories to the NPT: India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan. North Korea, having withdrawn from NPT is obviously not a candidate for NSG. Israel and South Sudan are not seeking NSG membership, leaving just India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan have starkly contrasting non-proliferation records. Pakistan and China’s nuclear cooperation lacks a great deal of transparency, and is obviously a mix of civilian AND military applications, which should be cause for alarm.
China worried about growing India-U.S. strategic cooperation, sees Pakistan as a mechanism to contain India in a perpetual regional conflict. China provided Pakistan with 50 kg of free weapons grade HEU and allowed Pakistan to test its first nuclear weapon of Chinese design in 1990 at China’s own Lop Nor nuclear test range.
Essentially, China is a rising hegemon that can not countenance a rising India, systematically placing roadblocks to India’s entry into the diplomatic world, commensurate with India’s size and economic maturity. The time has come for the 5th generation leadership of communist to do the prudent thing by diplomatically supporting India’s entry into the NSG. China should remember that India had supported communist China’s entry into the UNSC as a permanent member in 1971 despite having bilateral border issues. Diplomatic hegemony by China cannot arrest a rising India’s entry to NSG, UNSC, APEC or any other international body. Continued attempts to limit India’s participation in the international community will actually cause China harm rather than goodwill
China was a brotherly country to India until the occupation, and eventual annexation, of Tibet. The following attack on India in 1962 is still ingrained in the minds of the international community. India’s industrial base and growing economy is on pace to rival that of both the United States and China. If China wants the 21st century to be remembered as an Asian century, China must learn to recognize and accept India’s vital role.
China as a nation must do some self-introspection regarding its hegemonic behavior and expansionist policies since 1949. China has no allies worth naming on the twin issues of its imperialistic behavior in the East and South China Seas. Peoples’ Republic of China can gain immense goodwill from a peaceful and rising India if it stops obstructing India’s entry into the NSG on June 24th 2016 in Seoul, South Korea.
(The author is the President of the Council for Strategic Affairs, New Delhi, India)