NPT not a requirement for NSG but adherence is a factor, says US think-tank expert

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Membership of NPT is not a requirement for joining the NSG, but adherence to its rules is a factor, a US think-tank expert has said, weeks after the 48-nation grouping could not decide on India’s membership bid due to opposition from China.

“Part of the problem is that unlike all current Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) members, India is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and it has not subjected its nuclear activities to any multilateral restraints,” Mark Hibbs, senior associate, Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in an op-ed published in Nuclear Intelligence Weekly.

One way out of this dilemma would be for India to meet specific criteria or approach certain benchmarks as a condition for membership, Hibbs observed.

“NPT membership is not a requirement for membership in the NSG, but ‘adherence’ is a factor in INFCIRC/539, and many participants would favor India making binding legal commitments — including to NPT Articles I and VI and to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — that would bring India closer to the global non-proliferation mainstream,” Hibbs wrote. INFCIRC/539, is an NSG document that explains how the nuclear trading group works.

According to the Carnegie scholar, the NSG also needs to consider what admitting India would mean for the NSG’s own guidelines and procedures. Working-level participants warn that so far questions related to India’s possession of nuclear arms have not been answered. These include whether India would continue to be barred from access to enrichment and reprocessing technology because
it is not an NPT party, he said.

Hibbs said how the NSG handles Indian membership now is up to South Korea, which has inherited the rotating chairmanship until mid-2017, and Argentina, NSG’s previous chairman.

“They will continue discussion, including over possible criteria for membership and NSG procedures. If enough progress is made, the chairman will call an extraordinary plenary meeting to again consider India’s application. Getting answers to the process questions is important because members need to know how the group will function with India sitting at the table,” he said.