Explainer: US wants India to join elite Nuclear Suppliers Group, even if China doesn’t

By Prarthana Mitra

India is one of the few South Asian countries to have made remarkable progress over the last decade, when it comes to developing itself as a nuclear power. According to the US, India currently meets all the qualifications required to be a part of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group, which comprises 48 member nations that control global nuclear trade.

Despite nuclear power plants springing up all over the country and the government investing in nuclear reserves, India has been repeatedly vetoed from joining the exclusive clique by China. But that may change soon, according to Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.

What is the NSG?

“Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a consensus-based organization. India has not been able to secure membership as a result of opposition from China,” Wells told a Washington audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies this week.

Refusing to let a Chinese veto “limit…cooperation with India”, the US has pledged to continue advocating for New Delhi’s membership in the elite nuclear group. China has been steadfast about its stand about making new members sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), making India’s entry doubly difficult since admisssion depends on the consensus and India is not a signatory to the NPT.

The US is keeping its word so far. The Pentagon has begun by issuing a Strategic Trade Authorisation (STA-1) status for India, which brings India closer to the innermost circle of America’s allies. It is worth noting that this move comes just months after Trump administration launched itself in a fierce trade war over tariffs with China.

India’s nuclear milestones

India’s foray into global nuclearisation came in the mid 00’s. The Indo-US nuclear deal which was signed by US President George W Bush and approved by the US Congress was passed as law on October 8, 2008. Wells hopes that the nuclear deal with India will finally see the light of day as its 10th anniversary approaches.

“With Westinghouse coming out of bankruptcy, we now have an opportunity to cross the finish line to really culminate in what was this historic process that began a decade ago to be able to have one of our premier companies provide in some of the safest and cleanest fuel that will benefit, tens of millions of Indian citizens,” she said, adding, “It’s a really another exciting chapter that hopefully we can close.”

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius

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