What is Nuclear Suppliers Group?

Target PT Target PT

NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that frames and implements agreed rules for exporting nuclear equipment, with a view to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons

NSG was established in 1974 in the background of the Pokhran I peaceful nuclear explosion conducted by India in 1974. 

Task: It aim to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, while not hindering international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field. 

It facilitate the development of peaceful nuclear trade by providing the means whereby obligations to facilitate peaceful nuclear cooperation can be implemented in a manner consistent with international nuclear non-proliferation norms. 

Membership: 48 supplier states

Factors taken into account for membership include the following:

•  The ability to supply items (including items in transit) covered by the annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the NSG Guidelines;

•  Adherence to the Guidelines and action in accordance with them;

•  Enforcement of a legally based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the Guidelines;

•  Full compliance with the obligations of one or more of the following: the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaties of Pelindaba, Rarotonga, Tlatelolco, Bangkok, or an equivalent international nuclear nonproliferation agreement; and

•  Support of international efforts towards nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of their delivery vehicles.

India’s Quest for NSG Membership

•  Since 2008, India has been trying to join the group.

•  India submitted its membership application to the NSG in May 2016, a month before the Seoul plenary of the Group. However at the Seoul plenary group, India’s membership was blocked by China

Why India wants to become member of NSG? 

India is keen to become a member of the NSG (and other export control regimes such as the Wassenaar Agreement and Australia Group) due to various reasons:

• Expansion of nuclear power generation: It will significantly expand its clean and green nuclear energy programme.

• Short-comings in NSG waiver:

1.  Although the 2008 NSG waiver allows India to engage in civilian nuclear trade with other countries, but still this allows India to enter into an agreement with each country separately. It’s a piece-meal approach. 

2.  Membership of the NSG will provide a legal foundation for India's nuclear regime and thus greater confidence for those countries investing in nuclear power projects in India. 

• Nuclear export: 

1. It will enable India’s entry in the export market in the coming years.

2. India would like to make effective commercial use of its nuclear expertise in building pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) of 220 MW or 540 MW capacities as well as its possible role as a supplier of special steels, large size forgings, control instruments and other nuclear components and services.

3. Indigenous development of nuclear reactors got further boost with the Indian government’s recent decision to set up 10 indigenous PHWRs of 700 MWe capacities each. This would strengthen India’s credibility as a manufacturer and potential supplier of nuclear reactors that are safe and cost-effective.

• A rule-creating nation instead of rule-adhering: Membership of NSG will move India into the category of international rule-creating nations rather than stay in the ranks of rule-adhering nations.

• International prestige: With its expanding international prestige and profile, India's membership of NSG is of vital significance. 

• Integrating into the global export control regimes: Joining NSG is a part of larger goal of getting admission into the four global export control regimes – NSG, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) and Australia Group (AG). India is already a member of the MTCR.

What are the roadblocks in India’s membership to NSG? 

Since all decisions at NSG (including on membership) are taken by consensus, any country, small or big, can stand in the way of a consensus.

 Now majority of the countries support India’s membership (In June 2016, India became a Member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). All 34 members of MTCR are members of the NSG. Thus India is assured of support of these 34 members in its quest for NSG membership. China is not a member of MTCR).

But China and China backed nations have openly opposed to India’s membership on following grounds:

• Non-signatory to NPT: India is not eligible to become a member of the NSG as it is not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), adherence to latter is necessary for membership in the former.

• Norm-based entry: China has also averred that for non-NPT members some definite criteria should be evolved rather than granting country specific waivers.  No single country waiver should be granted to India as was done in 2008. 

• Linking India’s membership with Pakistan: At other times, China has stated that Pakistan also has similar credentials to join the NSG; and that if India is admitted, Pakistan should also be admitted simultaneously. 

• Will fuel nuclear arms race in South Asia: If only India were to be admitted, it would disturb the nuclear-arms balance in South Asia as India will engage in a massive nuclear weaponisation programme. 

What is India’s response to Chinese apprehensions? 

According to India, most of the questions raised by China against India’s membership have little validity.

• Grossi process:

1. In December 2016, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the former NSG Chair, circulated a new draft formula among Nuclear Suppliers Group member states. 

2. Thus draft formula proposes "nine general commitments" that non-NPT countries "would need to make" in order to receive the "fullest" atomic trading privileges.

3.  According to analysts, India already fulfils all these nine criteria for becoming a NSG member.

• NPT membership is not mandatory: According to the guidelines adopted in 2001 at Aspen, membership of NPT is not a pre-condition for becoming a NSG member. It is only a guiding principle to which consideration needs to be given. 

• Impeccable track record:  If the NSG granted waiver to India in 2008 on the basis of its past performance, then it should have no objection in admitting India as a member because of India’s impeccable track-record in observing the provisions of the NPT and NSG, even though it has not been a member of either any of them.

• India’s view on Pakistan’s membership to NSG: Pakistan’s credentials for NSG membership are highly flawed and inadequate. Pakistan has a blemished and flawed proliferation record as it has engaged in illicit supply of nuclear technology and materials to Iran, Libya and North Korea. 

• On nuclear arms race: Since 2008, as per its commitment, India has separated its civilian and military nuclear programmes, and put the civilian part under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. 

• India’s view on criteria-based membership: India maintains that rather than evolving criteria, its performance should be the basis of its track record.


India has in recent times emerged as major global player in all respects and the global foras’ must recognize the importance of this. China also must see it as an important confidence building step. If it does not block India’s membership it can have huge positive effects on the relationship between the two countries. India on its part must be ready for some hard and smart diplomatic efforts with China on the issue.


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