Barack Obama couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t be able to do it because he’d soon be stepping down. So getting India into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a task that falls on the shoulders of US President-elect Donald Trump. The good news is that the US administration has already stepped on the accelerator (or gas, as the Americans call it) to get the world’s biggest and most responsible democracy into the club.
Reports say that about a week ago a draft proposal was circulated among NSG member countries in which a plan to induct non-signatory countries to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) into the club was presented.
Submitted by former NSG chairperson Rafael Mariano Grossi, the proposal aims to get countries like India and Pakistan into the club.
But a report in Pakistan’s leading daily Dawn states that the proposal is heavily skewed in favour of India. Why?
Because India can claim that it has already check-marked the proposed nine-point formula for a non-NPT country to get into the club.
For instance, some of the key requirements the plan lays down is that a non-NPT nation must separate its civil nuclear programme from military, must declare all its nuclear facilities to the IAEA, ensure IAEA safeguards are in place, not transfer anything nuclear to an unsafeguarded area, and not conduct any nuclear tests.
According to Daryl G Kimball of According to Arms Control Association (ACA) – who criticised the proposal – between India and Pakistan it is India which can claim to have fulfilled all of the requirements. So that paves India’s way but not Pakistan’s.
Nevertheless the debate, this plan has been timely presented and is important because China blocked India’s previous bid on the grounds of New Delhi not being a signatory to the NPT. At the time, nearly every member nation was in favour of India’s entry. In fact, the US had itself strongly supported India’s bid and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself reached out to some opposing countries and convinced them to back India.
Reports say that the proposal has the strong backing of Washington in its serious push to help New Delhi. This report was prepared on behalf of South Korea, which is the current head of the NSG. Now South Korea is a known US ally and is increasingly getting closer to India. It is evident, therefore, that the US is doing everything in its power to make India a member.
And this brings us to the big question: Why is US so eager to help India?
The answer is a very simple one. Russia, China and Pakistan – and Iran to some extent – are ganging up to talk with Taliban to bring a so-called peace in Afghanistan and keep Islamic State out. And they have ignored both India and the US – the two countries who have stake in Afghanistan’s peace process.
It’s a complex maze.
The Taliban is still a threat in Afghanistan. Kabul receives help from both US and India in military aid, technology, training of troops, infrastructure and economic activities. On the other hand Pakistan continues to provide support the Afghan Taliban. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had recently snubbed Islamabad when the latter offered $500 million aid. Ghani curtly told Pakistan to keep the money and fight terrorism at home. He accused Islamabad of sponsoring terrorists in Pakistan. At the same time he praised India’s efforts in actually working in the development of Afghanistan “with no strings attached”.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is China’s vassal state. China is not in the good books of the United States. At the same time, during Obama’s tenure, US ties with Russia went so low that Moscow found in Beijing a better friend than in Washington.
Though Russia’s intentions of destroying the Islamic State is serious, it is inching closer to Pakistan and China because of its cold relations with US.
India had in mid-December warned Russia of the danger of talking to Taliban just to keep IS at bay.
The MEA had said: “So far as the Taliban is concerned, they have to respect the internationally agreed red lines, give up terrorism and violence, sever all ties with al-Qaida, agree to follow democratic norms and not do anything which will erode the gains of the last 15 years.”
But Russia has redefined Taliban as a “national military-political movement” instead of a terrorist group.
How Trump, who is seen as a friend of Russia, treats his country’s backing of India’s NSG bid will be clear after January 20. What is already clear is that the equations in international relations have changed and the pivot of Central Asia has shifted to Afghanistan, like where it was in the 19th century. The Great Game has been renewed.