India and United States have agreed to build six power plants in India to boost civil nuclear energy cooperation between both the nations. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Andrea Thompson, the US undersecretary of state participated in India-US Strategic Security Dialogue for arms control and international security. “They committed to strengthening bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India,” said the statement released after the dialogue. The United States’ support in building nuclear power plants will boost India’s chances of getting an entry in the elite club of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
India is already the member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Australia Group, the two powerful multilateral non-proliferation groups. The country is also participant of Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, a multilateral export control regime with 42 signatories. India and United States signed civil nuclear deal almost a decade back in 2008 and since then the US has supported India’s bid to enter NSG. However, China has repeatedly blocked India’s entry in the 48-member elite group by giving dubious arguments.
After Indo-US civil nuclear deal, India signed nuclear cooperation agreement with US, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, UK, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and South Korea. India has managed to gain support from all the major global players except China in its membership bid in the NSG. Moreover, the country has been successful in becoming a part of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an exclusive group which China is not a member of.
As a result of its dubious dealings with Pakistan and North Korea, China’s application to MTCR was rejected in 2004. Decisions to admit new members to the Missile Technology Control Regime are approved unanimously and therefore, China will now require India’s approval for membership in MTCR. This not only gives India an option to bargain with Beijing for a membership in the NSG but also allows India to block Pakistan’s entry to the Missile Technology Control Regime.
China has cited India’s ‘non-signatory’ status to the NPT as the causes of its concerns, but actual reasons for its opposition to India’s membership are largely varied and does not go beyond its self-interests. Having signed the Non-proliferation Treaty in 1992, China has been repeatedly accused of assisting Pakistan in its nuclear weapons program. China provided Pakistan with the magnets required to refine bomb-grade uranium, thereby violating Article 1 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Therefore, China’s concern over proliferation might not be unalloyed with interests.
India’s non-signatory status to the NPT remains the single largest hurdle in its membership bid, but it is highly unlikely that India would agree to sign the treaty that it considers discriminatory. While India’s impeccable record on nuclear safety and non-proliferation speak for itself, New Delhi is now aiming to engage Beijing and other member states in a constructive dialogue to address their individual concerns. As NSG plenary discussions are confidential, only bilateral cooperation and constructive dialogue to address individual issues and concerns can pave way for deserving, non-NPT states such as India.