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former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Suppliers Group

India Joins Wassenaar Arrangement

India Joins Wassenaar Arrangement

India was admitted into the Wassenaar Arrangement as its 42nd member Dec. 7 following the group’s annual plenary in Vienna. The Wassenaar Arrangement, established in July 1996, is a voluntary export control regime. Members share information on conventional weapons transfers and dual-use goods and technologies.

Experts assess that India is interested in joining export control regimes to bolster its bid to be included in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a nuclear technology control group. Despite U.S. backing, that group has not reached consensus on admitting India, which, alongside Pakistan, formally applied to join in June 2016, the same month India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). (See ACT, July/August 2016.)

Alexandre Ziegler, France’s ambassador to India, welcomed the admission decision, calling it in a tweet “one more recognition, after MTCR, of the growing role India plays in the world.” Critics contend that India should not have been admitted because it is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which was a requirement for the admission of other Wassenaar Arrangement members.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: January 10, 2018

NSG Renews Membership Debate

NSG Renews Membership Debate

Participating governments of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) convened an informal meeting Nov. 16 in Vienna to renew consideration of membership criteria for countries that have not joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), an issue that has been discussed on and off since 2011.

The NSG exempted India in 2008 from its long-standing full-scope safeguards requirement for nuclear trade with non-nuclear-weapon states on the basis of political commitments made by India, including a reiteration of its unilateral nuclear testing moratorium. In mid-2016, India filed a formal membership bid, with Pakistan submitting a separate membership request shortly thereafter. But the NSG, which operates by consensus, could not agree on a common set of criteria for membership by the two countries, which are not NPT signatories. Confidential discussions involving the 48 member-states did not produce a consensus. (See ACT, December 2016.)

The Nov. 16 meeting convened by the current NSG chair, Benno Laggner of Switzerland, was the first on the issue during the Trump administration. In response to Laggner’s request for input, U.S. representative Richard Stratford wrote Sept. 25 to say that the U.S. position is “that all relevant factors for consideration have been identified and that consensus on these factors is possible, if pursued.” Yet, diplomatic sources indicate that differences persist. China continues to insist that NPT membership must be one of the key criteria, while several other states insist that criteria should include, among other options, a binding commitment not to conduct nuclear test explosions, a declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency that identifies all current and future civilian nuclear facilities, and a commitment to support and strengthen the multilateral nonproliferation and disarmament regime by working toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

Posted: December 1, 2017

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at a Glance

August 2017

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: August 2017

Established in 1975, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is comprised of 48 states that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls to non-nuclear-weapon states. The NSG governs the transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology. The participants are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The NSG aims to prevent nuclear exports for commercial and peaceful purposes from being used to make nuclear weapons. In order to ensure that their nuclear imports are not used to develop weapons, NSG members are expected to forgo nuclear trade with governments that do not subject themselves to confidence-building international measures and inspections. The NSG has two sets of Guidelines listing the specific nuclear materials, equipment, and technologies that are subject to export controls.

 

History

Negotiated in 1968, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) granted non-nuclear-weapon states access to nuclear materials and technology for strictly peaceful purposes.

Recognizing peaceful nuclear programs could turn into weapons programs, several NPT nuclear supplier states sought to determine the conditions for sharing specific equipment and materials with non-nuclear-weapon states. In 1971, these supplier states formed the Zangger Committee in order to require states outside the NPT to institute International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards before importing certain items that could be used to pursue nuclear weapons—referred to as the "Trigger List."

India's explosion of a nuclear device in 1974 reaffirmed the fact that nuclear materials and technologies acquired under the guise of peaceful purposes could be diverted to build weapons. In response to India's action, several Zangger Committee members, along with France—who was not a member of the NPT at that time—established the NSG to further regulate nuclear-related exports. The NSG also added supplemental technologies to the original Zangger Committee's "Trigger List," becoming Part I of the NSG Guidelines. In addition, NSG members agreed to apply their trade restrictions to all states, not just those outside the NPT.

 

Guidelines and Operation

The NSG Guidelines require that importing states provide assurances to NSG members that proposed deals will not contribute to the creation of nuclear weapons. Potential recipients are also expected to have physical security measures in place to prevent theft or unauthorized use of their imports and to promise that nuclear materials and information will not be transferred to a third party without the explicit permission of the original exporter. In addition, final destinations for any transfer must have IAEA safeguards in place. The IAEA is charged with verifying that non-nuclear-weapon states are not illicitly pursuing nuclear weapons. To prevent nuclear material or technology from being stolen or misappropriated for weapons, IAEA safeguards include inspections, remote monitoring, seals, and other measures.

The Guidelines are comprised of two parts, each created in response to significant proliferation events that highlighted shortcomings in the export control systems.

Part I lists materials and technology designed specifically for nuclear use. These include fissile materials, nuclear reactors and equipment, and reprocessing and enrichment equipment. First published in 1978, Part I responded to India's 1974 diversion of nuclear imports for supposedly peaceful purposes to conduct a nuclear explosion. To be eligible for importing Part I items from an NSG member, states must have comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all their nuclear activities and facilities. In the case of Part II goods, IAEA safeguards are only required for the specific nuclear activity or facility designated for the import.

Part II identifies dual-use goods; non-nuclear items with legitimate civilian applications that can also be used to develop weapons. Machine tools and lasers are two types of dual-use goods. NSG members adopted Part II in 1992 after discovering how close Iraq came to realizing its nuclear weapons ambitions. Iraq had illicitly employed dual-use imports in a covert nuclear weapons program before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

At a May 2004 meeting, NSG members adopted a "catch-all" mechanism, which authorizes members to block any export suspected to be destined to a nuclear weapons program even if the export does not appear on one of the control lists.

Because the regime is voluntary, NSG members may ultimately make a political calculation to proceed with a transfer that violates the guidelines. For instance, Russia transferred nuclear fuel to India in January 2001 even though 32 of 34 NSG members earlier declared that the shipment would contradict Russia's NSG commitments.

Members are supposed to report their export denials to each other so potential proliferators cannot approach several suppliers with the same request and receive different responses. NSG states are expected to refrain from making exports identical or similar to those denied by other members.

In 2008, the NSG agreed to exempt India from its requirement that recipient countries must have comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all nuclear activities. The United States pressed for a three-year exemption to allow nuclear trade with India, but some NSG members were reluctant to agree to such a reversal. The waiver commits each NSG member to regularly inform the group of approved transfers to India and invites each country to share information on their bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with India.

As part of the organization, NSG members periodically review the Guidelines to add new items that pose proliferation risks or to eliminate goods that no longer require special trade controls. An annual plenary, which is chaired on a rotating basis among members, is held to discuss the regime's operation, including possible changes to the Guidelines. All NSG decisions are made by consensus. Members also participate in regular meetings of separate standing bodies—the Dual-Use Consultations and the Joint Information Exchange—devoted to reviewing Part II of the Guidelines and exchanging pertinent information.

The Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organisations in Vienna serves as the NSG point of contact. It receives and distributes NSG documents, schedules meetings, and assists with other administrative work.

 

Membership

Any state that conducts exports appearing on the Guidelines may apply for NSG membership. A potential member is evaluated on its proliferation record for national export controls and adherence to international nonproliferation treaties and agreements. All existing members must approve an applicant for admittance to the regime. There are several countries with nuclear programs outside the NSG, most notably India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea.

In recent years, India has advanced its bid to join the NSG. Although President Barack Obama  expressed support for India’s membership to the NSG in 2010, the group remains divided, in part because, as a non-state-party to the NPT, India doesn’t meet a core criterion for membership.

At the June 2016 NSG meeting, the United States and India pushed for acceptance of India’s bid for membership. All of the participating states, except for China, support allowing  India to join the NSG without signing the NPT. China noted that other non-NPT states in addition to India had expressed desire in joining the NSG, and therefore India should not receive an exclusive exemption. As China’s ambassador to Vienna, Shi Zhongjun, explained in June 2016, as “NPT membership constitutes one of the prerequisite factors for consideration of NSG participation, [m]ore discussions are needed before the Group is in a position to review…participation by any specific non-NPT state at the meetings of the Group.” China’s aim is to define non-discriminatory guidelines for membership that would remove the possibility of political bias.

In response to India’s bid, Pakistan also expressed a desire to join the NSG. On May 20, 2016, Pakistan’s ambassador sent a letter to formally apply for NSG membership, arguing that it also has the credentials to join.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Subject Resources:

Posted: August 16, 2017

NSG Still Stuck on India, Pakistan Bids

NSG Still Stuck on India, Pakistan Bids

A June 22-23 plenary meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) ended inconclusively on the controversial question of parti­cipation by India and Pakistan, which are not signatories to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Meeting chairman Benno Laggner of Switzerland said in a statement on June 23 that he intends to continue the discussion at an “informal meeting” in November.

The NSG, with 48 members, sets guidelines for nuclear trade so that transfers do not contribute to weapons proliferation. Laggner said diplomats, meeting in Bern, Switzerland, discussed “technical, legal, and political aspects” of NSG participation by non-NPT states. China and others have objected to India’s and Pakistan’s membership bids, which were submitted last year. (See ACT, January/February 2017.) The NSG, which operates by consensus, has sought to reach agreement on membership criteria for non-NPT states. NSG guidelines include the prohibition of exports to countries that do not open all nuclear facilities to international inspections. In 2008 the NSG agreed to exempt India from that provision, and in 2010, the United States endorsed India’s bid for NSG membership.—DARYL KIMBALL

Posted: July 10, 2017

Export Group Mulls Membership Terms

Document proposes measures, which would apply to India and Pakistan.

January/February 2017

By Kelsey Davenport

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is considering a set of draft criteria to guide membership applications from states that are not party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), according to a document obtained by Arms Control Today in December. 

The NSG, which currently has 48 member states, sets guidelines for nuclear trade so that the exports do not contribute to proliferation. The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding. Decisions, including on membership, are made by consensus. 

Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi, shown in a February 2015 photo, has been leading Nuclear Suppliers Group consultations on membership criteria for states that are not party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (Photo credit: Dean Calma/IAEA)At the NSG plenary meeting in June, member states designated Rafael Mariano Grossi, an Argentine diplomat and outgoing chair of the group, to lead consultations on a draft document that provides a “basis for the commitments and understanding to augment the applications of the non-NPT applicants.” 

This occurred after India, a non-NPT state, was not accepted for membership in June 2016. Several states supported a criteria-based approach for determining membership for non-NPT states such as India and Pakistan. 

The NSG issued a statement in June saying it held discussions on “technical, legal and political aspects” of NSG participation by non-NPT states, and that those talks would continue. (See ACT, July/August 2016.) NSG members have consulted with Grossi since June.

Current NSG guidelines include the prohibition of exports to countries that do not open all nuclear facilities to international inspections, such India and Pakistan, which possess military and civilian nuclear facilities. In 2008, however, the NSG agreed to exempt India from that provision, and in 2010, the United States endorsed India’s bid for membership in the organization. 

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Dec. 28 that the document has not been shared with Pakistan but that reports indicate that the criteria seek “to propose the 2008 NSG exemption for India” that would be “clearly discriminatory and would contribute nothing in terms of furthering the non-proliferation objectives of the NSG.” 

The spokesman said that that Islamabad supports a criteria-based approach and that the NSG must “be seen as a rule-based organization rather than a grouping which is driven by commercial and political considerations that trump its non-proliferation objectives.”

Criteria List

Grossi circulated his document on Dec. 6 and requested comments from the 48 NSG member states by Dec. 12. NSG member states met in Vienna in mid-December to discuss the nine criteria outlined in the document. 

The note accompanying the criteria said that there was a “unique confluence of ideas on clarifying the factors for consideration of the participation of non-NPT Parties. These ideas can be encapsulated into the areas of the [International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] safeguards regime, the NPT pillars, and halting nuclear testing, as well as clarifying how the NSG addresses violations of these commitments.”

Five of the factors deal with safeguards and the separation of civilian facilities from those used to produce material for nuclear weapons. This includes requiring non-NPT member states to bring into force a “clear and strict separation of current and future civilian nuclear facilities from non-civilian facilities” and declare to the IAEA “all current and future civilian nuclear facilities.” The criteria also requires non-NPT member states to have an IAEA safeguards agreement and additional protocol that covers “all declared civilian facilities” and all “eligible” future civilian facilities. 

Two criteria deal with nuclear testing. Applicant states would commit not to use any “item transferred either directly or indirectly from a NSG Participating Government or any item derived from transferred items in unsafeguarded facilities or activities” and “not to conduct any nuclear explosive test.” The criteria require a description of “intentions, plans, and policies in support” of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) when becoming a participating member of the NSG, but do not require a timeline for action.

India and Pakistan observe a nuclear testing moratorium, but neither country has signed or ratified the CTBT. 

The criteria also take into account the animosity between India and Pakistan. The document calls for an understanding that any non-NPT member would join consensus with other NSG members when considering the “merits of any non-NPT party application.” If India were admitted, it would prevent New Delhi from blocking Pakistan if other NSG members felt Islamabad’s application met the membership criteria. 

Applicants would be required to “support and strengthen the multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament regime by working toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons and enhancing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

Posted: January 11, 2017

NSG Membership Proposal Would Undermine Nonproliferation

Six years ago, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged his support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapon test blast, which used plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the United States. According the official NSG website , India’s 1974 test explosion “demonstrated that peaceful nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused.” NSG membership currently requires that the state is a member in good standing with the nuclear...

Mapping Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation Efforts

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Description: 

This new resource aims to inform policymakers, scholars, and the general public on the role that overlapping multilateral initiatives play in nonproliferation efforts.

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New Online Resource Maps Efforts to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and Curb the Spread of Nuclear Weapons

For Immediate Release: December 6, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, director of communications, 202-463-8270 ext. 110

(Washington, DC)—The Arms Control Association today launched a new online resource in mapping and tracking the objectives and key activities of five major nuclear nonproliferation regimes.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Initiatives Mapping Project aims to inform and update nuclear policy experts, scholars, students, and the general public, on the role that overlapping multilateral initiatives play in bolstering the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by securing weapons-usable materials, regulating the spread of dual-use nuclear ballistic missile technologies, and blocking the illicit transfer of weapons-related items.

The Arms Control Association is launching a New Online Resource Maps Efforts to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and Curb the Spread of Nuclear WeaponsProject information and resources are available online at NuclearNonProMap.org
 
The five initiatives examined in this project include

  • the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism,
  • the Missile Technology Control Regime,
  • the Nuclear Suppliers Group,
  • the Proliferation Security Initiative, and
  • the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

"Each of these initiatives plays a critical role in reinforcing governments' efforts under the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, prevent the rise of new nuclear-armed actors, and strengthening the global nuclear security architecture," noted Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy, who developed the site. 

In addition to displaying the geographic scope and providing a brief background of each initiative, this project provides general recommendations that could improve the effectiveness of each in the years ahead. These recommendations are based on open source information about the work of each initiative.

The project also presents options for collaboration amongst these voluntary groups to amplify impacts and results. These recommendations are meant to spur creative thinking about how these voluntary initiatives can adapt and evolve to better address future threats and challenges.
 
By consolidating references and recommendations, the project serves as a resource to better understand the role that voluntary intergovernmental initiatives play in bolstering nonproliferation and nuclear security efforts. The project was made possible by the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation.

The site will be updated periodically to reflect the changing membership and priorities of each initiative, developments related to the challenges they address, as well as additional recommendations for strengthening multilateral efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and combat nuclear terrorism.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Author:

Posted: December 2, 2016

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Initiatives Mapping Project

Visit the full Project site at NuclearNonProMap.org

Table of Contents

Posted: November 21, 2016

Experts Call on Nuclear Suppliers Group Not to Bend the Rules

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Description: 

In a letter to the 48-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 18 leading nuclear nonproliferation experts expressed...

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For Immediate Release: June 20, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—In a letter to the 48-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 18 leading nuclear nonproliferation experts expressed "deep concern and opposition to pending proposals that could grant India and Pakistan membership in the NSG on the basis of an exceptional political preference—rather than on the basis of a common, strong, and meaningful set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks for NSG membership."

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is are expected to discuss the Indian and Pakistani bids for membership at its plenary meeting in Seoul during the week of June 20.

The experts warn: "It is our assessment that any further country-specific exemptions from NSG guidelines for trade and/or membership without compensating steps to strengthen nonproliferation and disarmament would increase nuclear dangers in South Asia, and weaken the NSG and the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime."

"New membership bids,” the experts write, "should be considered on the basis of whether states meet an agreed set of strong and meaningful nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks.”

Signatories of the letter sent to the NSG participating governments include two former special representatives to the President of the United States on nonproliferation and the former U.S. negotiator for civil nuclear cooperation agreements.

"Neither India nor Pakistan meets the NSG’s membership criteria,” the letter continues, "nor does either country meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear that either state shares the NSG’s basic nonproliferation motivations, including the NSG’s efforts to stem the spread of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes."

Under the guidelines of the NSG, membership requires that a state is a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, among other considerations. In 2008, the United States pushed through an India-specific exemption from the NSG’s requirement that a state have full-scope international safeguards in order to be eligible for civilian nuclear trade.

“Unfortunately,” said Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association, "the United States has in the past month rejected consideration of proposals from some NSG participating governments for a criteria-based approach to membership. The Obama administration should adjust its irresponsible approach."

For the full list of endorsers and the text of the letter, see below.


Don’t Bend NSG Rules Without Steps to Strengthen Nonproliferation

June 8, 2016

Ambassador Rafael Mariano Grossi
Chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Dear Ambassador:

We are writing to express our deep concern and opposition to pending proposals that could grant India and Pakistan membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the basis of an exceptional political preference — rather than on the basis of a common, strong, and meaningful set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks for NSG membership.

It is our assessment that any further country-specific exemptions from NSG guidelines for trade and/or membership without compensating steps to strengthen nonproliferation and disarmament would increase nuclear dangers in South Asia, and weaken the NSG and the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Neither India nor Pakistan meets the NSG’s membership criteria, nor does either country meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear that either state shares the NSG’s basic nonproliferation motivations, including the NSG’s efforts to stem the spread of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes.

Since the NSG granted an India-specific exemption for India from its longstanding full-scope safeguards standard for nuclear trade in September 2008, the Indian government has not met the nonproliferation commitments it pledged it would meet in return for the exemption: its civil-military nuclear separation plan is not credible; its IAEA Additional Protocol arrangement is far weaker than those of the nuclear-armed states; and the administrative arrangements negotiated by the United States and other nuclear suppliers for tracking India’s nuclear material are insufficient.

India and Pakistan have refused to accept critical disarmament responsibilities and practices expected of all other nuclear-armed states, including a legally-binding commitment not to conduct nuclear tests (such as signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), halting fissile material production for weapons, and reducing nuclear and missile arsenals. Instead they are increasing their nuclear arsenals.

Thus, there is no basis to accept the argument offered by U.S. officials that Indian membership in the NSG would give India more of a stake in the nonproliferation regime.

Pakistan, which has a history of transferring sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technology and is expanding its own nuclear weaapons capabilities, has an even weaker case for NSG membership than India.

In our view, the best way to bolster the global nonproliferation and disarmament effort is to set strong standards for new membership that reaffirm the basic objectives and purposes behind the NSG and strengthen its role as a multilateral institution.

Sincerely,

Susan F. Burk
Former Special Representative of the President of the United States for Nuclear Nonproliferation (2009-2012)

Joseph Cirincione,
President, Ploughshares Fund

John D. Holum,
former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Angela Kane,
Senior Fellow, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation,
former High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations

Daryl G. Kimball,
Executive Director, Arms Control Association

Michael Krepon,
Co-Founder, Stimson Center

Edward P. Levine
Chairman of the Board, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation*

Jeffrey Lewis,
Middlebury Institute of International Studies*

Fred McGoldrick,
Consultant, and former Director of Nonproliferation and Export Policy,
U.S. Department of State

Robert K. Musil,
Chairman of the Board, Council for a Livable World*

Dr. Willam C. Potter,
Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies,
Middlebury Institute of International Studies*

Randy Rydell,
former Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

Henry Sokolski,
Executive Director of The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center,
and former Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy, Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense

Sharon Squassoni,
Director of the Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies*

Frank N. von Hippel,
former Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Leonard Weiss,
Stanford University, and
former Staff Director, U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and chief architect of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978

Ambassador Norman A. Wulf,
Special Representative of the U.S. President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (1999-2002)

*Institution listed for identification purposes only.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Country Resources:

Posted: June 20, 2016

Obama’s India Nuclear Blind Spot

Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the transfer of nuclear technology...

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the transfer of nuclear technology and concrete action by nuclear-armed states to reduce, not expand, their weapons capabilities.

As President Barack Obama said in his landmark April 2009 speech in Prague “[I]n our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons, rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.”

But just a year later, Obama announced that the United States would support Indian membership in the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)—the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapons test blast, which used plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor using U.S.-origin heavy water. 

According to the official NSG website, India’s 1974 test explosion “demonstrated that peaceful nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused.”

After low-level consultations on the issue within the NSG since 2011, U.S. and Indian officials have recently launched a quiet but high-level campaign for their proposal ahead of key NSG meetings this month in Vienna and Seoul. 

Indian membership in the NSG on the basis of an exceptional political preference rather than a common set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks would produce serious, long-term damage to strategic stability in South Asia, the NSG, and the broader nonproliferation regime.

Such a move would compound the damage caused by the 2008 NSG decision to make an India-specific exemption to its full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards requirement for nuclear trade that was pushed through by the George W. Bush administration.

NSG membership currently requires that the state is a member in good standing with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). India remains one of only three countries, with Israel and Pakistan, never to have signed the NPT. 

Based on its record, India does not meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear it shares the NSG’s core nonproliferation goals, including preventing the spread of sensitive uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies. 

India refuses to accept critical disarmament responsibilities and practices expected of responsible nuclear states, including a legally binding commitment not to conduct nuclear tests, such as signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), halting fissile material production for weapons, and reducing, not building up, its nuclear and missile arsenals.

India has actively sought to weaken the nonproliferation commitments it was required to take to receive an NSG exemption in 2008. For example, its civil-military nuclear separation plan is substandard, and its IAEA additional protocol arrangement is weaker than those of the NPT nuclear-weapon states. Although India maintains a nuclear test moratorium, leaders in New Delhi have not taken any steps toward signing the CTBT, and they have not agreed to build international nuclear test-explosion monitoring stations on Indian territory.

The NSG’s 2008 India-specific exemption has given India access to international nuclear fuel markets, which has freed domestic supplies for bomb production. Pakistan has reacted by accelerating its own fissile material production capacity and deploying highly destabilizing tactical nuclear weapons.

In April, Obama said he would “like to see progress with respect to Pakistan and India to make sure…they are not continually moving in the wrong direction.”

Another India-specific NSG exemption would undoubtedly move Pakistan in the wrong direction, hardening its resolve to keep pace with India’s ongoing nuclear weapons buildup. It would likely worsen China’s own NSG-noncompliant nuclear trade with Pakistan and make it more difficult to gain other states’ adherence to NSG trade control guidelines. Indian membership in the NSG would also reinforce the perception among NPT member states that the rules just do not apply to nuclear-armed states. 

China, which insists on further dialogue on the matter and notes that NPT membership should remain the standard for NSG membership, may block India’s admittance to the group. Nonproliferation stalwarts, including Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand, may stand firm too. But that could change if the Obama team employs the strong-arm tactics used by the Bush administration against some NSG members to push through the 2008 exemption from key NSG trade guidelines. 

Ironically, Indian membership in the NSG would empower New Delhi to block future efforts by participating governments to ensure that India respects the nonproliferation commitments that it made in order to win the NSG’s support for that 2008 decision. 

If states in the NSG are to be asked to support the objective of Indian membership, it should only be as part of a broader strategy to strengthen the global nuclear order. Anything less represents an irresponsible disregard for long-standing nonproliferation principles.

Posted: May 31, 2016

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