By Wang Wenwen
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a diplomatic journey, traveling halfway across the world with his top goal to garner support for his country’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The plenary meeting of the group is expected to be held in Seoul, South Korea on June 24. The US and some NSG members have given a push to India’s membership bid, but the reported opposition from most countries, especially China, seems to have irritated India. Beijing insists that a prerequisite of New Delhi’s entry is that it must be a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while India is not. Despite acknowledging this legal and systematic requirement, the Indian media called China’s stance “obstructionist.”
India has its own calculations for joining the NSG. Eyeing retaining the fastest growing economy tag, India’s access to the NSG, a body that regulates the global trade of nuclear technology, is expected to open up the international market for India’s domestic nuclear energy program. Meanwhile, with the support of the US, India can advance its development in this regard.
The deliberations of the US are also clear. With India’s NSG membership, the US, the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, can sell its nuclear technology to India. A US company is set to build six nuclear reactors in India, an agreement made between the two countries during Modi’s recent visit to the US. Beyond cooperation in the nuclear sector, Washington views New Delhi as a balancing actor in its pivot to the Asia-Pacific strategy. Its supply of nuclear technologies to enhance India’s deterrence capability is to put China in check. What is missing in US and Indian motives are concerns for regional security. So far, South Asia is still facing the harsh reality that the region is mired in nuclear confrontation.
India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers in the region, keep alert to each other’s nuclear capabilities. India’s application for NSG membership and its potential consequences will inevitably touch a raw nerve in Pakistan, its traditional rival in the region. As Pakistan is not willing to see an enlarging gap in nuclear power with India, a nuclear race is a likely outcome. This will not only paralyze regional security, but also jeopardize China’s national interests.
China insists on peaceful development. A peaceful regional and global environment is in the interests of all stakeholders. China’s concern about India’s inclusion into the NSG comes out of the security dynamic in South Asia. Only when New Delhi and Islamabad take another step forward in their nonproliferation commitments can the region avoid being dragged into a nuclear confrontation.