Hot Takes: Indian and Pakistani Perspectives on the NSG Plenary

India Lost the Battle, But May Win the War for NSG

By Reshmi Kazi

That India did not win a Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) seat during the 2016 NSG plenary is an understatement. It’s more appropriate to say that India encountered certain hurdles in this round of the plenary. However, the aspirations for India’s NSG admission are far from being shelved. A recent interview with Ambassador Rafael Grossi—recently appointed the “Facilitator of the Chairperson to having informal consultations with the Participating Governments (PGs) in the group”—indicates that despite China’s truculence and India’s stated position on the discriminatory Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), several NSG participating governments are keen to reconsider the “non-discriminatory admission” of non-NPT applicants. Among these applicants (e.g., India and Pakistan), India’s case merits high. This is a significant development indicating that the NSG has taken up India’s application. In other words, the process has begun.

Have there been loses? Yes. China has lost and shared its loses with Pakistan. Although China achieved a tactical win by blocking India’s entry into the NSG, this victory might not be sustainable in the long run. The NSG participating states have expressed a desire to reconsider the admission of non-NPT states in a non-discriminatory manner. India’s nonproliferation credentials—irrespective of being a non-NPT member—are much higher than Pakistan’s. Hence, if China continues to block India’s application, it will portray Beijing as having a fundamental conflict of interest with the other 47 participating states to the NSG. It will place China in an uncomfortable position of being not like-minded with other members of the NSG.

China’s support for Pakistan’s NSG admission also highlighted the poor nonproliferation record of China and Pakistan. Under the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act (NPPA) provisions, U.S. sanctions on AQ Khan and his network imposed in 2009 are still active and in force today. These sanctions will cease to exist only if the U.S. president—on the basis of satisfactory evidence—certifies that the AQ Khan nuclear black-market has ceased its proliferation-related activities. This has not happened thus far. Meanwhile, according to a recent report, Pakistan continues to supply restricted items such as Monel and Inconel material to North Korea in violation of the UN sanctions.

The NSG discussion also outlined how China has been a violator of NSG objectives. Sino-Pakistan nuclear cooperation is in complete violation of NSG objectives. This outlines China’s propensity to undermine the efficacy of the elite nuclear export control group merely with the petty intention to contain India. China appears weaker as a result, and less capable of contributing to world peace and prosperity.

Pakistan’s poor performance at the plenary meeting to argue its case for NSG shows that its diplomatic strategy is ill-equipped. Pakistan’s NSG application is dependent on China piggy-backing onto it and simultaneously playing the India card. This modus operandi will leave Pakistan more isolated and a pawn in China’s balance of power game against India and the United States.

India’s Pain, Nonproliferation’s Gain

By Muhammad Umar

The decision not to admit India as a member to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) had no real impact on India’s ambitions for its civil nuclear program. India already enjoys an exemption from key NSG rules and engages in global nuclear commerce. But by stressing the importance of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as an essential requirement for NSG membership, the group reaffirmed its commitment to nonproliferation, strengthening the regime. The decision proved that the NSG is unwilling to compromise on its basic principles—a welcome declaration for nonproliferation advocates.

The NSG has provided an incentive to India to deliver on its previous commitments made to the Bush administration in exchange for the U.S.-India 2008 Civil Nuclear Agreement. India must prove that it is a responsible nuclear state by separating its civil and military nuclear facilities, bringing all civil facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, committing to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), taking steps to reduce its weapons stockpile, and stopping all production of weapons-grade fissile material.

It is clear that India is interested in becoming a member of the NSG, and as an advanced nuclear technology state, it should. NSG member states understand that a criteria-based approach must be developed to address potential future NSG membership for states outside of the NPT.

A consistent, criteria-based approach is much better than making exceptions for individual states. It lessens the chance of unjust discrimination, enabling any state that meets the criteria laid out by the NSG to be welcomed into the group. According to Pakistan’s Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, “If the group forms such a uniform criteria (sic), then Pakistan has stronger credentials for NSG membership than India.”

The NSG set an excellent precedent for global nuclear norms by denying India membership. Despite pressure from the Obama administration, the group chose to remain true to its principles, which at the end of the day is a colossal victory for the nonproliferation regime.

India Broke Even at the NSG

By Jayita Sarkar

India won and India lost at the NSG plenary session. The fact that Indian membership was even considered at the plenary session is a win because it was unthinkable the mid-1970s—when the group was formed—as well as in 2008— when the group granted India a waiver to engage in civilian nuclear trade. Despite murmurs of a possible civilian nuclear agreement between Washington and Islamabad (and interest in such an agreement in some quarters in Tel Aviv), no other nuclear-armed state outside the NPT has reached this level of inclusion. Moreover, India’s recent full membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), of which China is not a part, demonstrates that New Delhi is slowly but surely receiving greater acceptance in the export-control regimes despite being an NPT-outlier. As a result, given India’s strained relationship with the nonproliferation regime, it was a win—and it will be remembered in history as a milestone in India’s international diplomacy and the evolution of the regime.

India also lost at the NSG plenary. First, it was a tactical failure on New Delhi’s part for not cultivating support from the NPT-hardliners like Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and others. Moreover, American support from the Obama administration was less robust at the NSG plenary session than it was during the Bush administration in 2008. This brings us to the second failure—a failed civilian nuclear energy renaissance despite the hopes generated since 2005. Eight years after signing the U.S.-India 123 agreement (i.e., the legal framework for the United States to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with India), the American nuclear industry has not made inroads. Although French and Russian companies have concluded agreements with India, no reactor construction projects have broken ground. As a result, the economic argument of India’s inclusion into the NSG fell short of being credible. This may have caused—among other factors—the withering U.S. diplomatic support for India’s NSG membership this time. That China opposed India’s membership was well-known, and should not have been a surprise.

There is not always a clear winner or loser in international politics since actions, issues, and goals are closely interconnected. India’s MTCR membership offsets the impact of the outcome of the NSG plenary session to both the domestic and international audience. It also demonstrates that while nuclear commerce between the United States has not delivered, defense relations have and will continue to evolve in a positive direction.

China, Pakistan Won on Principle

By Hamzah Rifaat Hussain

The plenary session of the Nuclear Suppliers Group resulted in plenty of gains and losses for states across the board. The most obvious winner was China which aligned its foreign policy principles with a commitment to nonproliferation by dismissing India’s bid for NSG membership. China’s argument centered on how the inclusion of a non-NPT state into the NSG would weaken the NPT regime—a sentiment that other states echoed.

To be fair, the outcome of the plenary session was clearly in China’s favor as it cited moral legitimacy to dismiss India’s proposal. Its argument is buttressed by the fact that for decades, NSG members had to be NPT signatories, and India’s exception to the rule would be in violation of that principle, weakening the nonproliferation order. By quoting precedents and NSG requirements, China not only established itself as the de facto winner of the deliberations in South Korea, but also reaffirmed its status as a great power with diplomatic clout while simultaneously earning the ire of some states and the respect of others.

Yet the results of the plenary session also highlight how alliances, global dynamics, and realism in international relations were at play. China’s morally legitimate claims and dismissal of India’s application has inevitably benefited one state which relies on nuclear deterrence to ward off conventional imbalances tilted in favor of India. That state is Pakistan, which has time and time again echoed how the nonproliferation regime—which includes the CTBT, NPT and the FMCT—needs to be more inclusive, less discriminatory, and based upon strategic parity. Considering Indian membership as a zero-sum game, the close relationship between China and Pakistan helped it considerably. Indian membership in the NSG would have entailed dire consequences for Pakistan’s national interests, in the form of an Indian veto on exports of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology. It also provides much needed relief to Islamabad given that the Indo-U.S. Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2008 and close bilateral ties between Delhi and Washington did not translate into NSG membership for its adversary, and India’s rejection was based upon it not being an NPT signatory.

Pakistani satisfaction and Indian disappointment aside, other states such as Austria and Ireland managed to garner considerable diplomatic goodwill from the deliberations by reaffirming their commitments to nonproliferation and citing principles agreed upon for decades. For India and its sympathizers, however, the proceedings resulted in utter disappointment, especially for those who continue to believe that civil-nuclear agreements can translate into NSG membership for a non-NPT state. The truth is that the United States, which was trying to further its policy of containing China through India, had inevitably confronted China itself, which cited principles and fair play to the delight of many—and most especially Pakistan.


Image: Olivier Douliery-AFP, Getty

Posted in , China, India, Nonproliferation, NPT, NSG, Pakistan

Reshmi Kazi

Dr. Reshmi Kazi is Associate Professor in the Jamia Milia Islamia (Central University). She specializes in nuclear security, nuclear non-proliferation, and nuclear disarmament. Her doctoral thesis is on “Evolution of India’s Nuclear Doctrine: A Study of Political, Economic and Technological Dimensions” from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has written extensively on nuclear security issues and made several presentations including a paper on "Nuclear Terrorism and UN Resolution 1540: A South Asian Perspective" at the UN Headquarters, New York. Her publications include monographs on "Post Nuclear Security Summit Process: Continuing Challenges and Emerging Prospects" (2017) and "Nuclear Terrorism: The New Terror of the 21st Century" (2013). She is an alumni of National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Study, Washington DC and a Visiting Fellow (Summer 2016) for the South Asia programme in the Stimson Center, Washington DC. Her aim is to research and publish on critical areas pertaining to nuclear issues that can contribute to future policy making.

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Hamzah Rifaat

Hamzah Rifaat is an anchor for Policy Beats, a current affairs and policy oriented web talk show series. He has over four years of broadcasting experience. He is a gold medalist with a Master of Philosophy degree in the discipline of peace and conflict studies from the National Defense University in Islamabad. He holds a diploma in World Affairs and Professional Diplomacy from the Bandaranaike Diplomatic Training Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was a freelance writer and blogger for the Friday Times and received a CRDF scholarship to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, where he studied nonproliferation and terrorism studies at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. He was also a Graduate Editorial Assistant for Women's International Perspective, a global source for women's perspectives, based in Monterey. He has also represented Pakistan as a member of the CTBTO Youth Initiative 2016. His writings encompass political and internal security issues in Pakistan and he regularly contributes for The Diplomat Magazine. Hamzah is a former SAV Visiting Fellow (January 2016).

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Jayita Sarkar

Jayita Sarkar is a Research Fellow with the Security Studies Program at MIT's Center for International Studies. Her expertise is in international security, nuclear proliferation, foreign policy analysis, and South Asia. Dr. Sarkar’s writings have been published in peer-reviewed journals like Cold War History, International History Review, and Critique Internationale and policy-relevant outlets like The National Interest and Foreign Policy magazine among others. Sarkar is a former Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and holds a Ph.D. in International History and Politics from the Graduate Institute Geneva in Switzerland.

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Muhammad Umar

Muhammad Umar is an assistant professor at the National University of Sciences and Technology (, Islamabad. He also presents a weekly roundup of defense related news on HRTV, and writes frequently on the same topic for national and international newspapers, and magazines. Prior to joining NUST, Umar worked, and lived in Pakistan’s tribal areas from 2009-2010, documenting the Taliban’s atrocities, and human rights violations against the local population. He has also worked as an anchorperson, and manager in-charge of product and content development at Pakistan Television Networks. Umar has a Bachelors degree in Political Science from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York. He is currently an MPhil candidate in the Strategic and Nuclear Studies program at the National Defense University ( in Islamabad. He tweets @umarwrites, and blogs on He can be reached via email at m.umar[at]s3h[dot]nust[dot]edu[dot]pk.

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9 thoughts on “Hot Takes: Indian and Pakistani Perspectives on the NSG Plenary

  1. For Hamza Rifaat Hussain- China has sighted India’s ‘non-signatory’ status to the NPT as the causes of its concerns, but actual reasons for its opposition are largely varied and not beyond its self-interests. Having signed the Non-proliferation Treaty in 1992, China has been repeatedly accused of assisting Pakistan in its nuclear weapons program. China provided Pakistan with the magnets required to refine bomb-grade uranium, thereby violating Article 1 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Therefore, China’s concern over proliferation might not be unalloyed with interests. China’s application to MTCR was rejected in 2004 following allegations of it supplying missile technology to North Korea. What commitment to nonproliferation and moral legitimacy were you referring to?

    China’s support for Pakistan’s membership bid, despite its dubious proliferation record, raises further questions on China’s committment to nonproliferation. It is not only difficult to take Pakistan’s application seriously but with its dubious proliferation records in mind, Pakistan’s application can only be described as an attempt to stall India’s bid. Pakistan, for its dismal dealings with North Korea and Iran and Libya, is widely recognised by the international community as a state guilty of nuclear proliferation.

  2. The NSG was founded to bring potential suppliers of nuclear equipment into alignment on a set of export controls. When it was established, one of its objectives was to include an important NON-MEMBER of the NPT in its nuclear export control system – namely France, which did not join the NPT until years later.

    So: the NPT wasn’t a requirement at the outset, and the idea of leaving a potential nuclear supplier out of the system certainly doesn’t fit well with the objective of expanding the commitment to export controls. India has adopted NSG export controls, but commitment is always more robust when one is part of the system.

  3. @Prakash Gupta, Moral Legitimacy was drawn with reference to 1975 and the principles agreed upon that a non- NPT signatory cannot be an NSG member. I am not defending China’s proliferation record, nor Pakistan’s. Yet at this point in time it is equally illegitimate for India to seek NSG membership on the basis of its proliferation record or Civil Nuclear Agreements for that matter.

    It is a simple equation:

    Become a signatory to the NPT- you are in the NSG.

    Refrain from doing so, any state will be challenged on principles regardless of proliferation records.

  4. @Reshmi kazi… How India can win war and is it legitimate for India to be a NSG member when it has a flawed nonproliferation record?

  5. Many thanks to all for these hot takes.
    My sense is that the NSG debate had contrary dynamics.
    On the one hand, it separated India from Pakistan in the sense that India’s candidacy had significant support, while coming up short of consensus. Pakistan’s candidacy had no apparent support beyond China and Turkey. India engaged in a serious diplomatic campaign, while Pakistan did not have the means or the arguments to launch a serious diplomatic campaign.
    On the other hand, China invoked re-hyphenation by implying that Pakistan’s case needed to be considered along with India’s.
    Supporters of India’s pursuit of NSG membership argue that it is important for New Delhi to exert itself, even if the end result comes up short. Rising powers do need to exert themselves to demonstrate their rise. But they have to pick and choose carefully, because exertions that are blocked do not suggest rising power.

  6. @Reshmi Kazi It is ironic that in response to my comment you pasted an Indian document to prove impeccable non-proliferation record.

    India used Canadian provided technical expertise which were for peaceful purposes and diverted them to make nuclear weapons. (

    Former Chairmen Dr. Y. S. R. Prasad and Shri Ch. Surendar of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) were both sanctioned by the United States on September 23, 2004 (

    In April 2003. the CIA released an unclassified report to Congress about India’s illegal nuclear trade with Libya. Moreover, the CIA named India for financing in a Libyan missile program. (

    In ISIS David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Andrea Stricker wrote report and articulate that U.S. policy to have a nuclear deal with India appears to downplay India’s flawed nonproliferation record. The country has leaked sensitive centrifuge design information, illicitly procured goods for its nuclear weapons programs, and not adequately enforced export controls. Increasing India’s access to dual-use technology before the Indian government fixes these problems increases the likelihood that some of this technology could leak out through its poorly implemented controls. (

    It is a fact that India has blemished and detailed record of developing both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles (

    Recently a report published that India has trained North Korean nuclear scientists. (

    Now dear Reshmi I am completely lost in the epistemology of word IMPECCABLE

  7. Dearest @Rabia Akhtar, this is to help you out of “being completely lost in the epistemology of the word IMPECCABLE”

    The document that I put forth is an official record from the Government of India underscoring India’s commitments to prevent proliferation and strengthen the objectives of the non-proliferation regimes. The official document elaborates the measures that has been adhered to prevent proliferation of weapons and materials which is a serious threat facing the region. This document was presented at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit and has been accepted by the international community as the national progress achieved by India on nuclear security.

  8. Why is Indian proliferation record being ignored by the U.S. authorities? Just to achieve interests like countering China and arms sales? It must not ignore the fact that nuclear nonproliferation is the essence of NSG and NPT. There is no guarantee that India will not use peaceful nuclear supplies again for military aggression. Regional as well as global stability is at stake.

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