Thursday October 21, 2021

US backs India’s bid to join Nuclear Suppliers Group

June 08, 2016

Clears final hurdle to join MTCR; work on six nuclear reactors to begin next year

WASHINGTON: Backing India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the US has said by becoming a member of the elite grouping, the country would be in a stronger position to be a “good citizen” on proliferation-related issues.

“Having gone down the path of the civil nuclear agreement with India, and having invested a significant amount of time in building up our cooperation with India as it relates to nuclear security,” Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes told a Washington audience.

Rhodes’ remarks on India came in response to a question about why some countries like China are opposing India’s membership in the 48-member NSG. “..I think the bottom line for us is that we believe that through engagement with India and through engagement with groups like the NSG, we are in a better position to support India as a good citizen on these issues,” Rhodes said.

He said the US believed that engaging India and trying to bring it into international processes will be more effective in promoting the country’s security protocols. "And frankly, it takes place against continued conversations that we have with India about their approach to nuclear weapons; and of course, the support that we've always expressed for diplomatic efforts between India and Pakistan," Rhodes said in response to a question at an event organised by the Arms Control Association.

Based in Washington, Arms Control Association is a think-tank that had opposed India-US civil nuclear deal and is now opposing India's membership to the NSG. "Of course, we'll take seriously the concerns of other nations, but again for us I think this is part of a broader context where we've decided to take this approach with India. And we've seen it bear some fruit, particularly on issues related to nuclear security," he said.

"So again, we understand the concerns, but in many ways we're dealing with a challenge that was fairly far advanced by the time we took office. And we decided to sustain the previous administration's decision to pursue that civil nuclear cooperation broadly," he said.

Meanwhile, the members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an international anti-proliferation grouping, have agreed to admit India, diplomats said, in a win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he met US President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday.

Diplomats with direct knowledge of the matter said a deadline for members of the 34-nation group to object to India´s admission had expired on Monday without any raising objections. Under this ´silent procedure´, India´s admission follows automatically, diplomats from four MTCR member nations told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Obama was expected to say he was looking forward to India´s "imminent entry" into the MTCR when he and Modi address the press after their seventh bilateral meeting, sources aware of its agenda said.

Admission to the MTCR would open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology, also making more realistic its aspiration to buy surveillance drones such as the Predator, made by General Atomics.

India makes a supersonic cruise missile, the Brahmos, in a joint venture with Russia that both countries hope to sell to third countries, a development that would make India a significant arms exporter for the first time.

Membership of the MTCR would require India to comply with rules such as a maximum missile range of 300 km that seek to prevent arms races from developing.

Italy had objected to admitting India but, after an unrelated bilateral dispute was resolved, did not object this time within a 10-day deadline after the group´s chair, the Netherlands, wrote to members suggesting India be welcomed.

An Italian marine, held for four years at the country´s embassy in New Delhi over the killing of two Indian fishermen in an anti-piracy operation in 2012, was recently allowed to return home. 

A US congressional source confirmed that India´s membership in the missile control group was expected, as Modi visited Washington.

"In my mind, the hurdle was the Italian veto over the Indian arrest of the Italian marine. Now that the marine has been released, I think it appears that yes, admission will be granted," he said.

No formal meeting is required for India to complete its entry into the group, set up in 1987 to limit the spread of unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the start of preparatory work on six nuclear reactors in India, a key step in closing the first deal stemming from a US-India civil nuclear accord struck over a decade ago.

The two leaders said in a joint statement that India and the US Export-Import Bank intend to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project and will work to finalise contractual agreements by June 2017. "Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the US-India civil nuclear agreement and demonstrating a shared commitment to meet India´s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels," the joint statement said.