WITH THE Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) calling an “extraordinary” plenary meeting on June 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have included Switzerland and Mexico in his itinerary as these two countries have expressed strong reservations on India’s application for becoming a member of this elite export control regime.
India submitted its application to become a member of the NSG on May 12, officials confirmed on Thursday.
Modi was earlier planning to go to only Afghanistan, Qatar and the US for his bilateral visits from June 4-8. However, given India’s interest in joining the NSG — the elite group of about 45 countries which control the transfer of high technology in the world — South Block decided that the PM should visit these two countries. While he will be in Switzerland on June 6, he will visit Mexico on June 9.
“These two countries have very strong non-proliferation concerns. And since China is likely to prop up spoilers during the meeting, we decided that the PM should himself try to address their concerns… this is going to be one of the top priority issues on the agenda in Switzerland and Mexico,” a top source told The Indian Express, ahead of Modi’s visit.
An elaborate plenary session of the NSG is scheduled to be held in Seoul from June 20 to 24. As word reached South Block that an “extraordinary session” had been called on June 9 to “discuss new applications”, New Delhi took the step of reaching out to the Mexican and Swiss leadership at the highest level.
Both countries have strong non-proliferation concerns and had been difficult during the negotiations carried out to grant India-specific exemption at the NSG in September 2008.
“The June 9 meeting is being looked at as a pre-plenary vetting process, where the countries will give their opinions on the new applications,” a top western diplomat told The Indian Express.
A European diplomat tracking the negotiations said the NSG meeting is going to consider “both Indian and Pakistani applications”, although many have echoed concerns on Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation record.
Indian government sources said that with China already having expressed its reservations against India’s application, New Delhi’s effort is to gather support from other “hold-out” countries and try to isolate Beijing in the process. However, the job, many believe, is easier said than done.
Negotiators on the Indian and US side recalled the “herculean efforts” made during the 2008 NSG negotiations, when countries like Mexico, Austria, Switzerland — backed by China — tried to block the India-specific waiver. It took a last-minute phone call from then US President George Bush to Chinese President Hu Jintao for China to drop its resistance and join the consensus.
Since NSG works through consensus, India asked all its ambassadors during the just-concluded heads of missions’ conference to lobby the governments all over the world for getting support over the next three weeks.
In the last two years, Modi has travelled to Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Turkey, Russia, UK and the US. “In almost all these countries, one of the issues on the agenda has been soliciting support from these NSG member countries,” said a senior official.
Besides NSG, India is also working towards becoming a member of other export control regimes — MTCR, Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangements. “The application process with MTCR is also on track, they will be taken forward soon,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.