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All is not lost

All is not lost
Highlights

China’s opposition to India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), coming as it does after nixing India’s plan to get Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar designated as an international terrorist by the UN, is only to be expected. 

China’s opposition to India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), coming as it does after nixing India’s plan to get Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar designated as an international terrorist by the UN, is only to be expected.

India’s bid to issue visa to Dolkun Isa, a leader of Uyghurs seeking autonomy in Chinese territory, and its growing proximity to the US have already raised China’s hackles.

Even as every other major power in the 48-member NSG favours admitting India at the ensuing meet next month, China’s insistence on India ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is queering India’s pitch.

Alongside India, China’s close ally Pakistan, is also after the NSG membership, but NPT is in their way. NPT enjoins its members to stop acquiring nuclear weapons and commit to non-proliferation of nuclear technology. Thus, raking up the NPT issue is a strategic move by China to nuke India’s NSG hope.

Why is NSG membership so vital for India? The share of nuclear power in India’s total electricity generation is just about 3.3%. The present capacity of 5,780 MW is targeted to rise to about 13,480 MW by 2022. NSG entry will erase curbs on export of nuclear fuel which India is very much short of.

A recall of the past will help us better appreciate Chinese intransigence on the issue. It was India’s nuclear tests in 1974 which led to formation of the NSG whose members need to be signatories of the NPT.

Nuclear commerce with India was banned. The Vajpayee regime went in for nuclear tests in May 1998, which attracted major US sanctions.

Later, the Manmohan Singh government strove hard and impressed upon the US of its peaceful use of nuclear energy. The US not only signed the 123 Agreement for civil nuclear pact with India in 2005 but also made the NSG unanimously approve of it in 2008.

It was an epochal decision by the NSG as it gave only of its kind India-specific nod for its members for civil nuclear trade with it. India’s pledge of “no-first-use” of its nuclear weapons also helped the matters. China opposed but US President George W Bush prevailed upon his counterpart Hu Jintao then.

Eight years later, given tensions with US and India’s propinquity to the US, the proclivity of the all-weather friend of Pakistan to work against India is more pronounced than ever.

China also perceives US-India resolve to strive for maritime peace in Indian Ocean will impinge upon its interests in South China Sea. However, all is not lost for India.

It has to strongly avow its adherence to non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear technology, the three pillars of NPT itself.

It needs to act under the rubric of non-alignment, and allay Chinese fears of it turning US pivot in Asia. India needs to avoid being seen as drawing too close to the US to the disquiet of others, especially China and India’s all-timefriend – Russia.

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