NSG Waiver Means India has Arrived as a Power
India had always strongly supported the nuclear nonproliferation regime. In 1965, India with Ireland and other nations sponsored Resolution 2025 which laid down the balance of obligations between the five nuclear weapon powers and the rest of the international community. The nuclear weapon powers were to enter into negotiations in good faith to stop the arms race and reduce their nuclear arsenals.
The non-nuclear powers were to undertake not to proliferate nuclear weapons. However, as the three nuclear weapon powers started their negotiations and India participated in them it was obvious that the three powers - US, USSR and UK - were not abiding by the obligations of Resolution 2025. While they piled the obligations on the non-nuclear nations, they kept their own options open for an arms race.
Under those circumstances India refused to join the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Further China, though a weapon state under the NPT, refused to join the treaty at that stage. A Maoist China declared in those days all peace-loving nations had a right to have nuclear weapons. Given the developing close relations among China, US and Pakistan and the intimidatory USS Enterprise mission sent by US during the last days of the Bangladesh war, India decided to develop its nuclear explosive capability. The result was the Pokhran nuclear test of 1974.
The nuclear weapon nations and their allies reacted swiftly to the Indian nuclear test. US, USSR, UK, France, Germany, Canada and Japan formed the London Suppliers' Group to ban export of all nuclear technology, equipment and materials related to the plutonium route to nuclear capability. A list was prepared, called the Zangger list, which itemized all things to be banned. It did not include at that time uranium enrichment technology since it was felt that it was too sophisticated for developing countries.
This omission was made use of by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan and he obtained all his technology, materials and equipment from Western European countries. The bomb making technology, design, the trigger material and basic stock of enriched uranium he was able to obtain from China which was then not a member of the NPT.
Though India was aware of the China-Pakistan proliferation axis and US looking away from Pakistani proliferation because of its reliance on Pakistan for its support to the Mujahideen in the Afghan war, India was reluctant to initiate weaponization in most of eighties. Within this time there was another proliferation involving South Africa, Germany and Israel which led to the South African white minority regime acquiring nuclear weapons. It was after his plea for global nuclear disarmament was totally ignored by the international community in the UN Special Session on Disarmament that Rajiv Gandhi decided to weaponize in March 1989. Pakistan had completed its weapon assembly in 1987.
In 1992, both France and China joined the NPT to have an effective say in the NPT review conference of 1995. The conference, by extending the treaty indefinitely and unconditionally, legitimized the nuclear weapons in the hands of five nuclear weapon powers. Having secured the legitimization of the nuclear weapons the five nuclear weapon powers promoted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to prevent any new nation becoming nuclear.
Meanwhile, the South African white minority regime gave up its nuclear arsenal since the whites did not want the black majority to have nuclear weapons. Then Indian prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao at that stage attempted to conduct a nuclear test but was thwarted as the US satellites discovered the preparations. India refused to sign the CTBT and declared that nuclear testing involved its national security. Pakistan followed suit.
By the 90s the original London Suppliers' Group swelled to above 40 and became the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). But its vigilance and technology denial could not stop Pakistani or Chinese proliferation. Again the US adopted a permissive attitude towards Chinese proliferation to Pakistan, mostly because the US administration did not want to jeopardize growing trade relations with China. But the NSG 's technology denial hampered India's access to various dual use technologies. It came in the way of India growing even faster.
India conducted its nuclear tests provoked by Pakistan's Ghauri missile test. Pakistan followed suit. Both countries were immediately put under sanctions in 1998.
By 1999 the world had all countries other than Israel, India and Pakistan in the NPT. North Korea, a signatory of the NPT, withdrew from it and conducted a nuclear test, and is now negotiating its way back into the NPT. China was admitted into the NSG in 2004 because it is a weapon state of the NPT and has a large civil nuclear programme. It was considered better to have China as a stakeholder in the non-proliferation regime in spite of its past proliferation to Pakistan.
In 2005, the US first took the initiative to help in India's efforts to become a major power. This was because of India's high growth rate, its nuclear and missile capabilities, its trillion dollar economy, its IT prowess and its off-source contributions to global economy. There was world wide recognition of India as one of the six global balancers of power. Though India was an emergent power, it was not seen as a threatening power by the international system. Not only the US but France, Russia and the UK came to the conclusion that India should be incorporated in the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, especially in view of the fact that in spite of technology denial by the NSG countries, India on its own had developed into a country with advanced nuclear technology, with reactors of its own design, fast breeder reactors and is attempting to develop uranium-233 from thorium.
India had already been admitted into the international Thermonuclear Energy Research Project. India has very large energy demand and is planning to use nuclear energy to meet part of that demand. Above all, the major powers, the sponsors of the NPT and the founders of the NSG came to appreciate India's impeccable record in respect of non-proliferation; the Indian policy of no-first-use; India's restrained pace in building up its arsenal and its voluntary moratorium on testing also attracted favorable attention of the major powers.
That is why one saw the entire G-8 countries coming out in favor of India getting the NSG waiver and access to international high technology.
In today's balance of power world, India's fast growth is welcomed by the US, EU, Russia and Japan as a balancer to China's growth and dominance in Asia. Perhaps that was one of the reasons China was not quite happy about India getting the waiver. On the other hand there is a view that the fast growth of countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Indonesia will diminish the share of US GDP in global GDP and reduce its dominance.
By giving waiver to India and making India a part of the international non-proliferation regime, the regime now covers the whole world barring Israel and Pakistan. Israel has no interest in civil nuclear commerce. Pakistan unfortunately has a record as a proliferator and even now is refusing to allow access for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to A.Q. Khan, the notorious proliferator.
Pakistan may have to prove its non-proliferation credentials over a period of time before it can become eligible for NSG waiver. It was very befitting that the sponsors of the NPT and the founders of the NSG moved for waiver for India. It is not a case of India becoming a major power as a result of this development. This development was an acknowledgement of India having arrived as a power. Today, India is the sole nuclear weapon power that is not a signatory to the NPT and yet given a waiver by the NSG. An international regime has been modified to accommodate India.
(K. Subrahmanyam is India's pre-eminent analyst on strategic and international affairs. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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