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China Opposes India's Entry in NSG
Jun 27, 2016

India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG, the exclusive grouping that controls global nuclear commerce, was scuttled on June 24 as China and a few other members insisted on India signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) before gaining admission.

  • China’s stance that India’s application cannot be considered because it has not signed NPT was backed by nearly 10 other countries at a plenary session of NSG in Seoul.
  • India failed to gain a seat at the NSG table despite strong backing from the US, the UK, France and a number of others in the 48-member group.
  • An NSG statement cited that the group declared its firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime—a clear indication that no exception will be made in the case of India. It, however, said that discussions on the participation of countries that have not signed NPT would continue.
  • India has refused to sign the pact, which it terms discriminatory, but points out that it has adhered to global non-proliferation norms voluntarily.

That China would not relent on India was evident when chief Chinese negotiator Wang Qun told reporters that for a country to be a member of NSG, signing of NPT is a must. This rule was not set by China but by the international community. If exceptions are allowed here or there on the question of NPT, international non-proliferation will collapse altogether. NSG had so far not agreed to any agenda item on the participation of non-NPT countries. Therefore, there was no question of China supporting or opposing India’s membership.

China’s rigid position came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent on June 23, where the two leaders were attended  the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. Narendra Modi urged Xi Jinping to make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application at the NSG plenary.

  • India’s application was submitted before NSG on 12 May, had acquired an immediacy given the country’s commitment to generating 40% of its energy requirement from non-fossil sources by 2030.
  • India believes that an early decision on its application remains in larger global interest. India’s participation in the NSG will further strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and make global nuclear commerce more secure. It will advance energy security and make a difference to combating climate change.
  • With this act, China has pushed India further away, and one could see India forging closer ties with the US, Japan and other countries.
  • Already, there are signs of Chinese concerns over India seemingly moving closer to the US and forging stronger ties with Japan. China also views with suspicion India’s increasing links with South-East Asian countries, some of which are locked in maritime boundary disputes with China.
  • A verdict on a maritime boundary dispute in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines by a UN court is due soon.

The unsuccessful bid has put a question mark on cooperation between China and India in international fora—whether at the climate change talks or at the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is also expected to redefine Asia’s future strategic contours, with China sharply positioned as India’s strategic rival.


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