Nuclear Supplier Group- Why India is not a member? - Seeker's Thoughts

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Nuclear Supplier Group- Why India is not a member?

Following India's 1974 detonation of a nuclear explosive device, seven supplier states organized the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). Their guidelines place obligations on suppliers to verify end-use declarations and ensure commercial competition does not undermine international nonproliferation standards.

If the NSG wants to maintain credibility, it must address concerns that certain suppliers may be using specific national interests to undermine global nuclear trade norms.

What is the NSG?

The Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) is an international forum of 48 governments that convene to negotiate and reach agreements on the export of sensitive nuclear technology. Members have agreed not to use these technologies for weapons development and increase safeguards on existing materials.

India currently maintains its nuclear power plants without being part of the NSG, however to expand its nuclear capabilities it will need access to advanced technologies such as thorium fuel; hence membership in this body is essential for India.

Four decades ago, the NSG was formed in response to India's nuclear tests. Since then, both the United States and some European countries have attempted to curtail India's nuclear expansion through diplomatic means; yet in 2008 India managed to secure from the US one-time waivers for civilian nuclear trade.

The US and other Western suppliers have attempted to force India into making its test moratorium pledge legally binding, by suggesting it should join the NSG as part of an effort at non-proliferation. But India sees membership of this international body not just for non-proliferation concerns; rather it serves to raise prestige and establish international status.

Why India not a member?

Though not an exclusive club, the NSG does hold special significance. Membership criteria for consideration in membership consideration include compliance with international nuclear nonproliferation agreements and national export controls as well as being willing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India was made possible through the Indo-US civil nuclear deal of 2008, which granted them a one-time waiver to document their commitment to nonproliferation and separation between military and civilian nuclear facilities. Their track record since has been excellent and they remain committed to nonproliferation; however China's refusal of membership remains an obstacle they need to overcome.

Joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group would enable India to gain access to advanced technology for its Make in India program and boost nuclear power production, helping it meet its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of 40% energy from non-fossil sources by 2030. In addition, joining would create an environment conducive to large investments needed to develop India's thorium reserves and build a weapons-free supply chain.

NSG membership is key for India's economic and political development, so during his recent trips to Mexico, Switzerland, and the US Prime Minister Narendra Modi attempted to convince NSG members to lift restrictions that prevent India's membership into this group - yet its impact remains uncertain, given all of the obstacles.

Implications for the NSG

India's bid to join the National Security Group will test whether India shares similar views with other members on nonproliferation trade control issues. India may seek access to state-of-the-art nuclear technologies and expand its Make in India initiative - something other NSG member states might view as going against their economic interests.

At times, significant supplier states' industrial interests shaped the group's geostrategic behavior and decision-making within it, often due to pressure from its members such as the United States or its allies urging for India's inclusion. Such motivations could once more determine its future if Washington and its allies push India onto its agenda.

However, it would be surprising if a core of principled participants did not view such moves as creating moral hazard, rewarding India for its dual bad behaviors of refusing to sign the NPT and building nuclear weapons. Longer term, should political interference into National Security Group decisions on specific items of its controlled lists become more prominent, it will likely become difficult for major suppliers to maintain the informal consensus regarding export control guidelines. Neither would this significantly change individual supplier strategic behavior or hinder development of an international treaty on nuclear controls; otherwise, NSG's ability to achieve nonproliferation will be severely undermined.


The Nonproliferation Security Group (NSG) has long been an integral component of nonproliferation efforts. Established following India's nuclear explosion and subsequent allegations that non-weapons technologies obtained for peaceful purposes might be diverted for weapon production, Henry Kissinger initiated a secret diplomatic process to create export controls aimed at preventing this diversion while providing quick responses if proliferation risks emerged.

Even though some participants believe Russia and China have not fully respected NSG guidelines in certain instances, most NSG participating governments express confidence that neither would approve export of "trigger list" items to proliferating destinations or end-users. Notwithstanding these positive assessments, however, challenges will likely emerge as global nuclear trade shifts from simple point-to-point transactions towards multiparty partnerships, legal liability obligations, intellectual property agreements, brokerage, financing arrangements etc.

Consequentially, it is vital that NSG participants remain vigilant and ensure that supply chain security remains an immediate priority. Furthermore, to effectively regulate an increasingly large volume of nuclear trade, the NSG must implement more stringent procedures for transferring sensitive technologies - this requires not only considering technical matters but also taking into account political and economic context of its members.