Another shot at membership
Ahead of the BRICS summit later this weekend, the Chinese administration said that it was “ready” for a discussion with India on the latter’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Reports indicate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet in Goa on Saturday afternoon for a bilateral on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.
"On the issue of joining the NSG, China and India have all along had very good communications, and [China] is willing to have further discussions with the Indian side, to increase consensus," said China’s vice Foreign Minister. “China is willing to explore all kinds of possibilities with India jointly, but this must accord with the charter of the NSG, and certain rules need to be respected by all sides.”
Despite Beijing’s conciliatory tone, there has been little visible progress on India’s entry into the export control regime. Back in June, New Delhi had urged Beijing to consider India’s case favourably. But the Indian government's efforts to secure membership into the Nuclear Suppliers Group failed with members of the elite grouping failing to reach a consensus on the issue at the NSG’s plenary meeting in June.
To the uninitiated, the NSG is an international group comprising 48 countries that monitor the export of materials or technology that can be used to create nuclear weapons. Several countries, led by China, had blocked India’s entry to the body, saying it was not a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and thus ineligible. It means that either India signs the NPT or stays out of the NSG. Although Beijing's argument based on procedural reasons is valid, it is no secret that their actions come from a desire to support Pakistan, which has also applied for membership.
China is well-aware that Pakistan’s nuclear program is India centric. Despite such an understanding, China continues to aid Pakistan in building its arsenal. As these columns have argued in the past, India quest for NSG membership is a question of international stature rather than the fulfilment of any material need. New Delhi sees membership to the NSG as a step towards the much-desired aim of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
At an immediate level, India seeks to participate in the NSG's rule-making process. Despite its stated aim, the elite grouping has been ineffective in countering proliferation. China’s decision to supply two nuclear reactors to Pakistan faced meek opposition. Unlike India, Pakistan did not even bother to seek an exemption under the NSG.