WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama will be asked to use America’s influence to make India a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group when he visits New Delhi later this month, diplomatic sources said.

The sources pointed to stories leaked recently to both US and Indian media, claiming that the Obama administration too was keen to help India join this much sought after club of nuclear powers.

Also read: UNGA urges Pakistan, India and Israel to give up nuclear weapons: report

The sources, however, claimed that Washington was still considering “pros and cons” of such a decision, which can further escalate the existing nuclear arms race in South Asia.

Besides, China and some European members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) also strongly oppose the idea of opening its doors to new members.

But reports in the Indian media say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will ask President Obama to use his influence to override their opposition when the two leaders meet in New Delhi later this month.

While claiming that Washington has not yet decided whether to back the Indian move, they acknowledge that India does have a lot of support within the group. Key NSG members like Russia, France, Australia and Japan already support India’s effort to enter the select club.

“A strong US support can enable India to join the coveted group,” said a diplomatic observer, adding that there was a strong lobby within the US administration and Congress, which wants Mr Obama to help India enter the NSG.

While EU nations opposing India’s entry were against any further expansion in the group, China wants to tie India’s membership to granting some concessions to Pakistan as well. The Chinese argue that either Pakistan should also be allowed to join NSG or at least be given a waiver on the lines of the one granted to India in 2008.

The waiver allowed India to conclude civilian nuclear deals with various countries, including the United States, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Namibia, Canada, UK, Argentina and Australia. The deals made it possible for India to acquire uranium, reactors, nuclear knowledge and technology for nuclear waste management from these countries.

In 2008 the US had used its influence to get a waiver for India, silencing dissenting NSG members opposed to the waiver. The Indian government wants Mr Obama to do the same now to help India enter the NSG.

NSG was created in 1975 as a reaction to India’s first nuclear test in 1974 and it has 48 members at present. The members have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls and to regulate supplies of nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2015

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