India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has been discussed at the annual plenary meeting of the Group every Iyear since 2011. The statements issued after each of the meetings have been the same every year. Despite the US assurances of discussing the membership in detail in 2011, there has been lack of any meaningful deliberation. The last meeting in June 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, ended in a similar manner with NSG members still divided. The lack of consensus was a result of an unclear assessment of the risks and merits of Indian membership. This paper will attempt to lead the debate in a meaningful direction for a more nuanced understanding of the consequences of India’s NSG-membership.
Assessment of these consequences, to a large extent, depends on how the Group defines its role. To understand the risks and merits of India’s membership, the paper will first examine how the Group has evolved over the years and understand the role the Group defines for itself. It must be noted here that while the ultimate goal of the NSG remains nuclear non-proliferation, this paper essentially looks at the means by which the NSG can contribute to that goal.
There are two broad narratives that sum up the role the NSG could take on. It could either be a group of like-minded states dedicated to common global non-proliferation norms or a group that brings into its fold all states that can export nuclear technology, materials and equipment. With this debate on the role of the NSG as the framework, the paper will assess how India fares as a prospective member of the NSG. The paper will conclude by arguing that the NSG will have to strike a delicate balance between these two narratives and that India would aptly fit in that balance.
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