As Prime Minister Narendra Modi returns from a successful trip to the United States where he addressed the Congress, Washington has expressed its strong support for India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), whose members can trade in and export nuclear technology.

India has also gained entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime, but Chine remains adamant on its stance in opposing India’s entry into the NSG. As a result, the issue is now the latest battleground in the growing Chinese-Indian friction. With India’s push for admission into the NSG gaining momentum ahead of the group’s annual plenary session this month, Beijing is making it clear that it intends to make life difficult for New Delhi. China has relied on an obstructionist argument and has called for further discussion on whether “India and other countries” who have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty can join the NSG.

Where the U.S. and other supporting members have called for India’s inclusion, based on New Delhi’s nonproliferation track record and the U.S.-India civil nuclear accord, China has made the NPT signature its central argument for scuttling India’s’ entry. Beijing is claiming that a “compulsory” requirement for NSG membership is that “the NSG members must be signatories to the NPT.”

Apart from its rhetoric about the NPT, China has also encouraged Pakistan to apply for NSG membership so as to link New Delhi’s entry with that of Islamabad’s, knowing full well that there will be few takers for Pakistan’s case. The U.S. State Department, for its part, promptly came to India’s defense, reaffirming the view that “India meets missile technology control regime requirements and is ready for NSG membership.” The U.S. has been declaring its support for India’s full membership since 2010.

The Modi government is investing a lot of diplomatic capital in seeking NSG membership. It has reached out to the New Agenda Coalition, a group of states in the NSG that includes Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland, which remain committed to disarmament, and has been able to secure its support. The NSG chairperson visited India last year to take this process forward.

Membership in the NSG will be the final step in India’s inclusion into the global nuclear order.

It is therefore not surprising that China is taking such a strong stand on this issue despite the fact that its own nonproliferation track record remains abysmal. In fact, it was China’s support for Pakistan’s nuclear program that led the way for India’s overt nuclearization.

China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure and emerged as Pakistan’s benefactor at a time when increasingly stringent export controls in Western countries were making it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and technology elsewhere. The Pakistani nuclear weapons program is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. Despite being a member of the NPT, China has supplied Pakistan with nuclear materials and expertise, and has provided critical assistance in the construction of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

The Chinese-Pakistani nuclear relationship is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapon state has actually passed on weapons grade fissile material as well as a bomb design to a non-nuclear weapon state.

After the 2008 U.S.-Indian civil nuclear pact, China made it a point to further enhance nuclear cooperation with Pakistan despite criticism from other nuclear powers. When the NSG was approached for a waiver for the passage of the U.S.-India pact, China was the last state standing in opposition. When it failed to scuttle the deal, China quickly moved to sign an agreement with Pakistan for two new nuclear reactors at the Chashma site in addition to the two that it was already working on in Pakistan.

China’s action was in clear violation of NSG guidelines that forbid nuclear transfers to countries that are not signatories to the NPT or do not adhere to comprehensive international safeguards on their nuclear program. China suggested that there were “political reasons concerning the stability of South Asia to justify the exports,” echoing Pakistan’s oft-repeated complaint that the U.S.-Indian nuclear pact had upset stability in the region by assisting India’s strategic program.

And now China and Pakistan are working together to block India’s bid to gain entry into the NSG.

India was able to get a one-time clean waiver from the NSG in 2008 as it was able to convince the group of the effectiveness of its export control regime, which was deemed to be in line with global standards. The U.S. lobbied for India extensively, with President George W. Bush himself talking to his Chinese counterpart after Beijing refused to budge until the last minute. Today India wants to be part of the decision-making at the highest levels of global nuclear architecture. As a rising and responsible nuclear power, it should be a part of this structure and it will also be good for the NSG if India is part of the decision-making process.

China has taken a hard line on this issue and it seems unlikely that it will change its opposition to India’s entry. To many in India, this will further reinforce the perception that China is willing to sacrifice its long-term strategic partnership with a rising power for the short-term objective of trying to scuttle its rise. This won’t be helpful for Chinese-Indian ties, but Beijing wants to go down fighting. New Delhi should brace itself for a bumpy ride ahead.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College London.

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