Two pressing issues face the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) when it holds its annual plenary meeting later this month in Prague: India’s potential membership and China’s disregard of existing nuclear export guidelines.

These will have significant implications for the group’s credibility, writes Daniel Painter inThe Diplomat. Painter, who very recently finished a stint as a research assistant in the IISS Non-proliferation and Disarmament programme, believes that how these matters are addressed will be a key barometer of the NSG’s ability to support non-proliferation norms.

The NSG was established in 1975 by seven nuclear supplier states to address nuclear commerce, intended to supplement the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Its goal was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear technology, and it has since grown to include 47 participating governments.

India is not a signatory to the NPT. In fact, by conducting a ‘peaceful nuclear test’ in 1970, two years after the NPT came into force, India’s actions made it clear that some form of nuclear export control was necessary. But India, long a ‘nuclear outlier’ has now expressed an interest in joining the NSG, and there seems to be international support gathering for this.

However, its membership could dilute the norms of NPT, and above all, ‘would further solidify the perception of India as an accepted non-NPT nuclear-weapon state’, writes Painter. ‘This is a dangerous precedent to establish given the current situations with North Korea and Iran, as well as its impact on the future calculus of other states.’

China is also a source of concern – particularly its recent agreement to sell a new 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor to Pakistan, which violates the guidelines of the NSG and makes them appear open to individual states’ interpretations. Governments in the NSG have been unable to agree on how to deal with these concerns, but it is crucial that they are addressed, argues Painter.

‘Granting Indian membership and continuing to ignore Chinese export violations will further legitimize opportunistic and strategic export arrangements to the detriment of nonproliferation norms,’ he writes. ‘How the group resolves these issues will inevitably shape its future identity.’

Read the full article at The Diplomat.

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