ISLAMABAD: The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on Friday emphasised that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would remain the bedrock of non-proliferation regime as its annual plenary meeting ended in Seoul without any agreement on admitting the countries that have not signed the treaty.
The group said it would continue its deliberations on the issue of accepting non-NPT states in its fold, but did not elaborate how it intended to proceed with the consultations.
The participants “had discussions on the issue of technical, legal, and political aspects of the participation of non-NPT states in NSG and decided to continue with that,” a communiqué issued at the end of the two-day meeting said.
Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Italy, Romania, Belarus, Turkey, China, Austria, Ireland, Belgium and New Zealand oppose extending concessions to India
India and Pakistan are the two non-NPT states aspiring for the membership of the 48-member international nuclear trade cartel.
The absence of a consensus on the matter proved to be a major diplomatic setback for India and its backers US, Japan and some other Western countries, which seemed to be in a hurry to get India admitted to the group. The condition of signing the NPT — one of the five requirements for new entrants — turned out to be the biggest obstacle for developing a consensus on the Indian application.
Although the NSG agreed to continue discussing the matter, its assertion that “full, complete and effective implementation of the NPT” would remain the basis of the non-proliferation regime implied that any forward movement on non-NPT states would not be easy to bring about.
There were sharp divisions among the members at the plenary session with some insisting on adhering to the NPT condition, while a few others called for putting in place a uniform criteria-based process for new admissions, according to a source who had been following the proceedings in Seoul. And then there was a group supporting the Indian application.
Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Italy, Romania, Belarus, Turkey, China, Austria, Ireland, Belgium and New Zealand were strong critics of extending concessions to India.
Media quoted China’s top negotiator at the NSG, Ambassador Wang Qun, as having said there were “many differences on admitting non-NPT members”. He described the differences as “a matter of principle”.
In his comments, Mr Wang clarified that there was “broad-based support” for adhering to the NPT condition.
Read: US put NPT condition for NSG membership, reminds China
“Dozens of countries share China’s view that we need to discuss how we can go forward, how can we deal with non-NPT states as a whole, before taking up India’s case,” he said.
However, in an attempt to hide its diplomatic embarrassment, the Indian side tried to portray that it was China alone that had been blocking its application. Different accounts confirmed that some of the countries that originally pledged support to India reneged during the meeting in Seoul. But the Indian External Affairs Ministry, in a statement without naming China, accused “one country” of “persistently raising procedural hurdles”.
In view of the differences, NSG members could not agree on consideration of individual applications and instead remained focused on discussing issues in general terms, according to the insider.
“The NSG haggled on the agenda and whether individual applications can be considered or not,” he said. “Positions were uncompromising, strong and bitter views were expressed,” he added.
Speaking about lobbying efforts by Pakistan, the source said its argument about strategic stability being a critical factor for achieving non-proliferation objectives had made an impact.
The Pakistani argument has been that the country-specific waiver given to India by the NSG in 2008 served the cause neither of non-proliferation, nor of strategic stability in South Asia. A key message has therefore been that South Asian strategic stability is a critical factor for achieving the object of non-proliferation.
“The need for adopting non-discriminatory and criteria-based approach tying Pakistan and India together, gradually gained acceptance with NSG participants,” the source added.
CORRIGENDUM: In Dawn’s earlier report titled “India’s bid to join NSG hits dead end” it was erroneously mentioned that Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry led a delegation to Seoul for presenting Pakistan’s case on the sidelines of the NSG meeting. It was instead Pakistan’s Ambassador in Vienna, Ayesha Riaz, who led the delegation to Seoul.