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China Rivalry Keeping India Out of Nuclear Suppliers Group

Friday, June 14, 2013

The annual plenary meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) later this month in Prague will focus attention once again on India’s application for membership in the group. Since 2008, India has been campaigning to join the NSG, which governs all legal transfer of nuclear technology and material globally. While the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal concluded that year raised India's hopes of inclusion, the NSG remains bitterly divided over the issue, with a U.S.-led bloc supporting India's candidature and a China-led bloc vehemently opposing its entry into the group. The stand-off has frustrated India's deep-seated desire to become an equal of the major nuclear powers. But it also has implications for the future of the NSG and the nuclear nonproliferation regime more broadly.

During deliberations in Vienna this spring, the NSG once again failed to reach a decision on India's membership. The 46-nation group works by consensus, making any opposition an effective veto. To India's frustration, disagreement within the group actually seems to be growing, which is especially puzzling given that four of the five major nuclear powers—Britain, the U.S., Russia and France—support India's bid to join the NSG. Many observers argue that India's status as a nonsignatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the main cause of this impasse, but resistance to India's membership appears to be rooted in geopolitics—with China as the major obstacle. ...

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