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NSG, NPT, China

In its latest report, the Arms Control Association (ACA), which is one of the world’s leading authorities on nuclear weapons and disarmament, assessed that China has violated the consensus arrived at the 2010 non-proliferation treaty (NPT) Review Conference on the supply of nuclear technology by transferring nuclear reactors to Pakistan. This report comes at an interesting time, particularly after China had unilaterally decided to block India’s entry into the NSG citing non-membership of the NPT late last month. As per the consensus document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, recipients of nuclear materials and technology must accept “IAEA full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons”. 

Pakistan has accepted neither, according to a leading national daily. “Despite progress on its export controls, China continues to supply Pakistan with nuclear power reactors, despite objections that the sale of the reactors did not receive a consensus exemption from the NSG. Pakistan, which is neither an NPT member nor under full-scope IAEA safeguards, is, therefore, ineligible to receive such assistance under NSG rules,” says the report by Arms Control Association. Despite its stated aim, the NSG has been ineffective in countering nuclear proliferation. Unlike India, which sought an exemption from the NSG before signing the civilian nuclear deal with the United States, Pakistan did not even bother to seek one, while receiving nuclear reactors from China. India, which has not signed NPT, has quite rightly singled out China for creating procedural hurdles in its bid to gain NSG membership. 

As a result, on June 23, at least five member countries blocked India’s membership bid in Seoul during a plenary meeting of the NSG. These nations had opposed India’s bid, saying it was ineligible because it was not a signatory to the NPT. Although their opposition to India based on procedural reasons is valid, Beijing’s actions stem from a desire to support its ally, Pakistan, which has also applied for membership. It’s also well known that US President Barack Obama wants India to become a major player in its “Pivot to Asia” doctrine, which essentially seeks to contain China’s growing presence in the maritime theaters of the South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. Washington’s support for India’s membership essentially stems from this rationale. Experts contend that NSG membership will make no real difference. India already has access to key nuclear technology, as a result of the waiver granted for the 2008 US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. 

Under the one-time waiver, India agreed that it would follow any rules that the NSG may make in the future. NSG membership is also unlikely to matter much in terms of uranium supply. India has already finalised agreements with the likes of Canada and Australia, among others, for the supply of uranium. The only possible benefit that India may hope to reap is to participate in the NSG’s rule-making process. Membership to the NSG is one of the steps towards the much-desired aim of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Coming back to the ACA report, China is well-aware that Pakistan’s nuclear program is India centric. Despite such an understanding, China continues to help Pakistan in building its arsenal. With China having blocked India’s entry into the NSG, India should work to block China’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). 

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