India's bid to join Nuclear Supplier Group a point of pride

11 Jun,2016


New Delhi, BdChronicle:

India is rejoicing over news that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brokered deals with U.S. officials to bring New Delhi closer to its long-held dream of joining an elite group of nations allowed to control the global trade in nuclear materials, equipment and technology.

Newspapers have run daily front-page stories heralding progress on the nuclear front after President Barack Obama came out in support of Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which led other nations including Mexico and Switzerland to suggest they, too, were on board. Diplomats in Vienna suggested Thursday that India is closer than ever to joining the NSG, despite never fulfilling the requirement of signing a global treaty aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

But would India's entry into the club make any difference? Some analysts say no, at least not from a technical standpoint.

India has already managed to secure access to nuclear fuel and technology to build power plants it says it needs to boost energy capacity and drive economic growth for the nation of 1.25 billion people.

Analysts say joining the NSG is chiefly a matter of pride and desire to be taken seriously by some of the world's most powerful nations. Since prompting international technology sanctions and limits on exports by conducting nuclear tests in 1998, India has been eager to gain legitimacy as a nuclear power.

"In practical terms, there is nothing extra that the NSG will give India other than a seat at the nuclear high table," said Rakesh Sood, a retired diplomat closely associated with India's nuclear negotiations over the past decade.

India already has deals with more than eight countries for supplies of uranium, and has signed agreements for reactors with France, Russia and the United States.

This week's reported nuclear breakthroughs were seen as a major point of progress for Modi, who has placed new urgency on India's nuclear ambitions with the aim of vastly expanding atomic power to account for about half of the country's total electricity supply by 2050.

Nuclear power is one way India, the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, could cut its emissions and reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

India scored a major victory in 2008, under Modi's predecessor, by securing a waiver from Washington allowing it access to nuclear technology and fuel despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But progress in deals to build new nuclear plants since then has stalled.

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