India has really a chance on NSG

NEW DELHI: After getting support from Switzerland, the US and Mexico, what are India’s realistic chances of getting past the door into the world’s only nuclear cartel?

The US-India joint statement laid out the US support. “The leaders looked forward to India’s imminent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime. President Obama welcomed India’s application to join the NSG, and reaffirm- ed that India is ready for membership. The US called on NSG participating governments to support India’s application when it comes up at the NSG plenary later this month.”

India’s entry into the MTCR adds to its street cred. One of the four non-proliferation regimes, India’s application cleared all hurdles earlier this week to MTCR, a 34-nation exclusive club which controls transfer of missile, space and related technology. More important, the grouping does not include China, India’s primary opposition in the NSG.

But, as everybody gears up for the big NSG meet in Vienna and later Seoul, it’s very clear this may not be enough.

Just as India changed its strategy by targeting NSG and MTCR rather than all four, so has China. In 2008, China was the “silent opposition” preferring to hide behind a group of nations. Ultimately, it needed a phone call from the White House to Beijing to bring China around.

This time, China declared its opposition early by publicly linking NSG member- ship with Non-Proliferation Treaty accession. This has several implications – by outing itself as the main opposition, it can hope to rally other ‘reluctants’ behind it; climbing down would be a significant loss of face, unacceptable in China; and it raises the costs of appeasing or overcoming China’s opposition exponentially for the other side. It will take much more than a phone call.

The other side, in 2008 and now, remains the US. US-China ties under Obama in 2016 are very different from the Bush regime in 2008. While Bush plumped for India secure in his belief that it was the right thing to do, Obama has no such conviction.

The only difference is that India has as much of a transactional leader in Modi, as the Chinese knew where they stood with Bush. With Obama, they are not sure. In addition, thanks to the deterioration in economic and security ties, China may be unwilling to accommodate an Obama phone-call, if he makes it .

Negotiations, deals this time round will go down to the wire. India, China and the US are playing a close game. The stakes are higher.