India, with its highly credible non-proliferation track record, has been admitted as the 42nd member of the elite export control regime, called the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) on 07 December 2017.
The decision was taken at the two-day plenary meeting of the grouping on 06-07th December in Vienna, Austria. This admission opens the doors for India to acquire critical technologies that will help to appropriately address the demands of India space and defence sectors.
India is now a member of two, out of the four export control regimes, the other one being Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
India is putting in its best efforts to join the ‘Nuclear Suppliers Group’ (NSG) (described ahead) and is at a fairy advanced stage of joining the ‘Australia Group” (which was established in 1985 after the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1984 to help member countries to identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons).
India has taken a conscious decision, based on principles, to not to be a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has been providing the requisite cannon fodder to countries like China to obstruct India’s entry into export control groups.
India’s entry into the WA, despite being non-signatory to the NPT, also boosts its chances of admission into the folds of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Salient Features of the Wassenaar Arrangement
The Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) is an elite club of countries who subscribe to regulate the trade of dual use technologies, e.g. connected with nuclear energy and control the export of such arms and material. The ambit of its Charter is quite similar to NSG and MTCR.
The WA was founded in 1996 and has its Headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Other than China, all permanent members of the UN Security Council are its signatories.
As enunciated in its Charter, the primary objective of the organisation is to “promote transparency and greater responsibility in transfer of conventional arms and dual-use technologies.”
Implications of Admission into WA for India
The major implications for India are as follows:
Facilitate industrial tie-ups for procurement and manufacture of hi-tech items for Indian defence and space programmes.
Create a ground for realignment of India in export control policy framework of other WA members, e.g. it can provide eligibility to India for certain licensing exceptions given only to WA member countries.
Boost India’s chances for admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as it is a non-signatory of NPT.
Assist India to bolster bilateral ties with countries like Russia and France, which supported its membership to the organisation.
Reasons for India’s Push to Join the NSG
India is the fourth largest energy consumer after China, USA and Russia and third largest importer in the world and its import dependence is expected to grow to 50% of its current total demand by 2030.
About 70% of India’s electricity generation capacity is from fossil fuel and coal accounting for 40% of India’s total energy consumption followed by crude oil and natural gas at 28% and 6% respectively.
The conventional sources of energy are limited and leave a huge carbon imprint, which is highly detrimental for the very survival of our ecosystem.
Therefore, it has become an imperative for India to aggressively pursue the development of unconventional, less polluting sources of energy. Amongst which, nuclear energy happens to be the cleanest and most efficient form.
Before we look at India’s efforts to establish amiable contact with the coterie of nuclear suppliers, let’s first understand a few important connected aspects.
Nuclear Energy Status for Sustainable Growth
India’s current nuclear generation capacity is 4.8 GW and ranks 13th in the world, which account for only 1.2% of global nuclear capacity.
The installed capacity of nuclear energy is presently 4780MW, which accounts for 1.92% of the total power generation capacity of the country.
Currently, four indigenously developed 700 MW PHWRs are under construction, two each at Rawathbhata in Rajasthan and Kakrapar in Gujarat. Several others are also planned.
Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant(KKNPP), the largest nuclear power station in India, is scheduled to have six 1000 MW VVERs, (a type of Light Water Reactor) built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, the Russian state company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), with an installed capacity of 6,000 MW of electricity.
The commercial operations of the first two 1000 MW VVERs, started on 15 October 2016. The construction of the third rector commenced on 29 June 2017.
The major challenges envisaged to be faced by the government to increase the nuclear power capacity to the designated 60 GW by 2030 are:
Ensuring a credible, high level of safety at the plants.
Capacity building and ensuring a perennial supply of fuel for the nuclear reactors. Nuclear liability in case of an accident and allied issues are inhibiting foreign companies to set up plants.
Environmental clearances, politically motivated agitations and other regulatory measures need to be addressed to encourage and win the trust of foreign companies.
Reasons for India not Endorsing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The endorsement campaign for NPT commenced in 1968 and it entered into force in 1970 for a period of 25 years. However, on 11 may 1995, it was extended indefinitely.
A total of 191 states have joined the Treaty, North Korea which has initially acceded to NPT, announced its withdrawal in 2003. Four UN member states never joined the NPT: India, Israel, Pakistan and Sudan.
The prime objectives of NPT is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.
The treaty is reviewed every five years in meetings called Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
As per the provisions of the NPT, non-nuclear weapon states were prohibited from, among other things, possessing, manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
All signatories, including nuclear weapon states, were committed to the goal of total nuclear disarmament (which on ground has not been implemented by the superpowers).
Similarly, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty by which states agree to ban all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996.
However, the CTBT has not entered into force as eight specific states have not ratified the Treaty yet. It has been signed by 71 states.
The states that have not ratified the treaty are as under:
China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty; India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it.
India is among the few countries, which follow a self-imposed “no first use” policy, a pledge not to use nuclear weapons unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons.
The argument that India gives for not signing the NPT or the CTBT is that these treaties creates a club of “nuclear haves” and a larger group of “nuclear have-nots” by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967, but the treaties never explains on what ethical grounds such a distinction is valid.
India’s then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said during a visit to Tokyo in 2007: “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.”
Role of Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG)
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multinational body comprising of 48 members states, which is concerned with reducing nuclear Proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.
The NSG was founded in response to the first nuclear test conducted by India in May 1974 and had its first meeting in November 1975.
A series of meetings by member nations were held in London from 1975 to 1978 and that is why this Group is also referred to as the ‘London Group’.
The meetings resulted in agreements on the guidelines that were formally published and essentially comprised of the list of items, also called the Zangger “Trigger List”, which could only be exported to non-nuclear states if certain International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards were agreed to or if exceptional circumstances relating to safety existed.
India’s Pursuit for Nuclear Energy
In July 2006, the United States Congress amended US law to accommodate civilian nuclear trade with India and endorsed the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act in December 2006.
India committed as part of the Deal to classify 14 of its 22 nuclear power plants as being for civilian use and to place them under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
Considering India’s clean non-proliferation track record, the above said legislation allows for the transfer of civilian nuclear material to India.
The next hurdle was to get the approval of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) to allow major nuclear suppliers to indulge in nuclear trade with India.
During the initial meeting on 21-22 August 2008, the NSG member countries, specially, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, and New Zealand, expressed strong reservations about the lack of conditions in the proposed exemption Guidelines.
However, on 06 September 2008, India was granted the waiver at the NSG meeting held in Vienna, Austria.
Consequently, India could commence nuclear trade with other willing countries. President Bush signed the agreement approved by the US Congress on 08 October 2008.
Further, as a result of protracted negotiations, PM Modi and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot were able to seal the civil nuclear deal with Australia, which holds the world’s largest reserves of Uranium on 05 September 2014.
India’s Push for NSG Membership
India had applied for NSG membership in May 2016. Concurrently, Pakistan and Namibia also applied along with India.
Pakistan’s concurrent application for NSG was seen as an apparent attempt to block India’s Membership to the NSG. It may be noted that Pakistan has serious allegation of proliferation of nuclear technology by its scientist A Q Khan.
An elaborate plenary session of the NSG was held in Seoul from 20-24 June 2016. However, China put a spoke on the grounds that India was a non-signatory of NPT and giving membership to India would set a wrong precedence.
Roadblocks in the Path of India’s Membership for NSG
India’s entry into the NSG is being very strongly contested by China for obvious reasons and other “non-proliferation hardliner” countries, like Austria and Ireland.
It needs to be understood that NSG member countries operates on consensus and each member has an equal vote. Giving India an admission into NSG is not as much of a debate, as setting up precedence by allowing a non-signatory of NPT into the NSG.
China has asserted its opposition to permit non Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) members into the NSG on 07th December 2017 and is poised to resist consideration of India’s NSG membership.
China’s opposition is broadly based along two lines: firstly, keeping India out of the nuclear club, being its major competitor in the economic arena and contender for nuclear material to fuel its reactors, and secondly, keeping Pakistan pegged with India for admission into NSG, so that a positive vote can never come through, considering the dubious track record of nuclear proliferation of Pakistan.
NSG membership would give India greater access to the international nuclear market, and will opening up nuclear commerce for fuelling its reactors.
Besides, the NSG can be a source of legitimacy for a nuclear-armed state outside of the NPT, to be granted a special status that would hugely enhance India’s image and regional power projection.
India has been granted entry into two key export control regimes, i.e. MTCR last year and WA, now. Hence, it may be reasonable to assume that India’s aspirations for becoming a member of the NSG will also see the light of the day sooner or later.