China Rivalry Keeping India Out of Nuclear Suppliers Group

China Rivalry Keeping India Out of Nuclear Suppliers Group

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.

The NSG formed in 1974 in response to India's nuclear weapons tests. To arrest global nuclear proliferation, the group explicitly prohibits its members from supplying technology and nuclear material to states that are not party to the NPT. But in a controversial decision, the group agreed to provide India a waiver in 2008, at the behest of the United States in the wake of the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. Since India was a nuclear weapon state outside the NPT, the waiver was seen by many as a blow to the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Austria, the Netherlands and New Zealand resisted it, claiming that the waiver would send the wrong signals to states such as North Korea and Iran, but ultimately dropped their opposition at U.S. urging.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.