How Wassenaar Arrangement can help India enter Nuclear Suppliers' Group

How Wassenaar Arrangement can help India enter Nuclear Suppliers' Group

After getting a step in at Wassenaar Arrangement, India is all set to seek membership of Australia Group as well.

After getting a step in at Wassenaar Arrangement, India is all set to seek membership of Australia Group as well. Officials monitoring the situation confirmed that India will move ahead on this. This is an informal group of countries, which work for harmonization of export controls to ensure that the export of critical chemicals don't lead to development of chemical or biological weapons. If India applies, the candidature will be discussed at the next plenary in Paris from June 4-8, 2018. India in last six months got into critical strategic multilaterals such as Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR and recently in Wassenaar Arrangement.

The memberships in these influential strategic affairs' groups, put India in unique position to bargain the entry into Nuclear Suppliers' Group, or NSG. In June this year, China blocked the NSG entry citing that India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT. This was despite, the US along with 34 other members vouched India's credentials as a responsible nuclear empowered country. China is pushing that if non-NPT signatory country, like India's petition is to be considered, so should be of Pakistan. But most of the other NSG participants are not so confident of the track record of the Pakistan. The western countries, especially the US, accused Pakistan of supplying crucial technologies to North Korea and Iran.

India got membership of both MTCR and Wassenaar Arrangement, without signing the NPT. Along with this, in July 2017, India signed bilateral with Japan on nuclear civil co-operation. These enhance India's non-proliferation credentials, along with giving access to acquire some critical technologies. Along with this, Wassenaar Arrangement would also give India an opportunity to take leadership role in preventing these technologies going in hands of terrorists.

These developments make India's case much stronger in the next plenary session of NSG in June 2018. China may continue to block this, but now India has a lever to use these memberships as a bargaining chip. Although, Indian's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj made it clear that India will not do it, but those involved in tier-2 or tier 1.5 level deliberations say, China is very keen to be part of these exporters group. If nuclear energy is critical for restricting India's energy basket, and fulfilling the ambitious Intending National Determined Contributions committed at U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, Conference of the Parties, or COP21 in Paris to cut carbon emissions, then missile technologies are critical for Chinese exports and defence programmes. Chinese petition for MTCR entry is pending since 2004. With India's admission into MTCR, in last six months, India closed the deal of sale of BrahMos to countries like Vietnam.
Indian approach towards these multilaterals changed post 2008 signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Over the years, India continued to perceive many of these regimes as discriminatory. India started pushing for getting into these groups since then, but in last two years the push got accelerated, since suppliers of many high-end duel-use technologies are members of these groups.

China, because of its global plans, stonewalled NSG. Each of these multilateral require consensus. If China continues to use their veto power, India too is in level playing field. Since beginning of MTCR or Wassenaar Arrangement or evolution of Australia Group, the western world-which controls three multilaterals except NSG- remained suspicious of the communist block, especially (erstwhile) Soviet Union and China. Post collapse of Soviet Union, Russia joined these multilaterals, but suspicion on China continued. These western countries see China as a threat and as one of the "target" countries with which the MTCR members should strictly control their missile exports. India can help China in bridging this trust deficit, which will be a bargaining chip.

Obviously, getting China on same page is not easy, but India must accelerate diplomatic efforts to make China rethink its obstructionist approach.