The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will begin consultations on India’s membership to the elite group of nuclear export next month, says NSG Chairperson Rafael Grossi.
Speaking to The Hindu about his meetings with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and MEA officials, Mr. Grossi, who will begin those consultations leading up to the NSG plenary session in June 2016, said he thinks it is possible to find a way for India’s membership to be accepted.
However, he ruled out an “India-specific” rule, which means countries such as Israel and Pakistan, who too haven’t signed the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), could also apply. “Nobody disputes that India is a keyplayer in the nuclear scenario, hence there is a recognition that some formula must be found for India [to become a member], and I think it is possible,” he said.
India’s push for the NSG membership in the next year is likely to be complemented by its application to other nuclear and missile control regimes like MTCR, Wassenaar and Australian groups, and will get a boost from the completion of the India-Australian civil nuclear agreement likely to be announced in the next few months, with the possibility of the India-Japan civil nuclear deal also making progress.
However, Mr. Grossi’s reference to a general solution, rather than an “India-specific” one, is likely to raise alarm in New Delhi, as he accepted that this could also apply to countries like Pakistan. In response to a specific question, he said: “[On] other non-NPT countries [like Pakistan and Israel], I would say that we need to find a formula that is applicable to all. It would not be sustainable for us to go for a tailor-made solution that is India-specific.”
Mr. Grossi, who was previously the Chief of Staff at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), referred to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which accepted nearly all countries (all but four are signatories) regardless of their past violations, as a possible example.
Significantly, he denied reports that China had “blocked” India’s bid for NSG membership. “I don’t think there is a single member of the NSG that is against India. Most, if not all of them, have excellent relations with India,” he said. “No one has blocked anything.”
The NSG works by consensus, which means that there are no votes, but all members have to agree to a proposal. In June this year, China backed Pakistan’s bid for NSG membership, but added that signing the NPT was still a requirement for all members, leading to speculation that China might insist on both India and Pakistan being given membership at the same time, despite Pakistan’s record of unauthorised supplies to Iran and North Korea.
Mr. Grossi said he would make no comment on the Chinese position, saying only that he wished to take the NSG into a “decision-making” mode in the next few months. While he refused to commit himself to a timeline, he said that in “some cases,” it could take less than a year, and in some others more.
“Let’s just say, India is willing to join the NSG now, today if possible. It has all the elements in place for membership. There have been some deliberations already, and I am trying to make the process more dynamic.”