WITH CHINA on Tuesday publicly admitting that the “door is open” to discuss India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Indian negotiators are prepared to show records of seven meetings of the NSG plenary sessions where Delhi’s adherance to its commitments made in 2008 have been acknowledged, sources told The Indian Express.
This is unlike Pakistan, which does not have any such relationship with the NSG so far and is seen as a violator of the NSG guidelines, sources said.
New Delhi is banking on the “support and influence” of seven major powers — US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Canada and Japan — to get the fencesitters and the naysayers on India’s application to switch sides and become a part of the consensus. It is also confident of the export control regime in India, which is aligned to NSG.
Indian officials said New Delhi is going all out on the bid to become a member this time as it views this as the best opportunity it has got. “Is bar aar-ya-paar (it’s now or never),” a top Indian official told The Indian Express.
New Delhi’s hopes have been bolstered by the continuous push from the US since 2010, when Washington supported India’s bid for the first time during US President Barack Obama’s visit. The support has been reiterated in five joint statements — in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
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According to those privy to the developments, the Chinese strategy is to refer the matter to any of the bodies under the NSG — seen as a delaying tactic in New Delhi. The NSG has three key panels — a consultative group, an information exchange meeting and a technical experts group. While the first two are headed by the US, the third is headed by Sweden. “A matter referred to any of these panels could delay it by a year — till the next plenary session,” an official said.
As the expert-level sessions of the NSG began in Seoul on Tuesday, Indian negotiators expressed confidence that their case was “strong on merit”. While the records of seven meetings of the NSG since 2009 acknowledge the “relationship with India” is “confidential” and can only be shared with member countries, sources pointed to the public statements of the meetings which show that the only positive country-specific reference is that of India. The two other countries which find reference repeatedly in those statements are North Korea and Iran.
* Nine months after the September 2008 Vienna meeting — when India got the country-specific waiver — the NSG plenary meeting on June 11-12, 2009 in Budapest said the “plenary addressed the regular reporting and consultation requirements under the group’s September 6, 2008 statement on civil nuclear cooperation with India, bearing in mind India’s voluntary commitments and actions.”
* After the June 24-25, 2010 NSG meeting in Christchurch (New Zealand), it said, “The Group continued to consider the implementation of the statement on civil nuclear cooperation with India. It noted actions taken to adhere to the NSG guidelines and the voluntary commitments made by India.”
* Again, after the June 23-24, 2011 meeting in Noordwijk (Netherlands), it said the NSG considered “all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 statement on civil nuclear cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India.”
* On June 21-22, 2012, the NSG plenary in Seattle said it “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 statement on civil nuclear cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India”.
* Again, on June 13-14, 2013, the NSG plenary in Prague said that it “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 statement on civil nuclear cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India”.
* On June 26-27, 2014, NSG plenary in Buenos Aires said that it “shared information on all aspects of the 2008 statement on civil nuclear cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India.”
* And last year, on June 3-5, 2015, NSG plenary in Bariloche (Argentina), said that it “shared information on all aspects of the 2008 statement on civil nuclear cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India”.
Officials said that India has been continuously “engaged” with the NSG, and some of these statements came under the chairmanship of countries like Netherlands and New Zealand — which have strong views on nuclear non-proliferation. “This shows India’s credentials…this is what makes us confident that our application will be judged on pure merit,” a senior Indian negotiator said.
China, which has been opposing India’s NSG membership bid, on Tuesday said that the “door is open” for discussions on the issue. “The door is open. The room is there. We never said we are against who (a country). We did not target any country, India or Pakistan,” Hua Chunying, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said.