Ahead of the June 9 “extraordinary plenary” meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna, India on Monday managed to get Switzerland’s support for its NSG membership bid following bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Geneva.
“We have promised India support in its efforts to become a member of the NSG,” Schneider-Ammann said.
Modi, who was scheduled to land in Washington DC on Monday, said, “I am thankful to the President for Switzerland’s understanding and support for India’s membership of the NSG.”
The Indian Express had first reported that India had included Switzerland and Mexico in the Prime Minister’s itinerary as these two countries have expressed reservations over India’s bid to become a member of this elite export control regime.
India had submitted an application to become a member of the NSG on May 12. After the June 9 meeting, an elaborate plenary session of the NSG is going to take place in Seoul on June 24.
Daniel S Markey, senior research professor in international relations at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Johns Hopkins University, told The Indian Express, “It shows the power of direct diplomacy that PM Modi is willing to bring to the NSG issue, and it takes the process closer to a situation in which China will find itself in an uncomfortable diplomatic role at upcoming plenary meetings.”
Bharath Gopalaswamy, director, South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, said, “India getting access to the NSG is long overdue… NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) is a discriminatory regime, and India has an impeccable record in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. It’s only prudent that India should be part of the NSG grouping. No international regime is static, and so NSG should not be static either.”
With Switzerland’s promise of support, the momentum for India’s entry into the NSG — an elite group of 48 countries which controls transfer of nuclear and high technology in the world — is expected to pick up.
US has been one of the vocal supporters of India’s membership to the NSG, and it is likely to figure during Modi’s discussions with US President Barack Obama here.
After his visit to the US, Modi will head to Mexico to lobby for support into the NSG.
Since China has expressed reservations against India’s application, Switzerland’s support would serve as a shot in the arm for New Delhi’s efforts to gather support from other “hold-out” countries and try to isolate Beijing in the process.
Since NSG works through consensus, India has mounted a diplomatic offensive and has asked all its ambassadors during the recently concluded heads of missions conference to lobby governments all over the world for 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.
However, progress is difficult with Beijing also propping up Pakistan’s application for entry into the NSG.
Indian officials, led by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, have reasoned with foreign governments that since India was looking at a very major domestic expansion in the nuclear power sector, besides a “very large” international collaboration with different countries, its entry into the NSG would help its objective of having clean energy.
Stressing that India not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should not be linked to its bid for NSG membership, Indian officials have also said that India fulfilled all its commitments relating to the atomic sector.