Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Russia last week to follow up on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin’s informal summit in May and to lobby for India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership.
NSG is an elite club of countries that deals with the trade in nuclear technology and fissile materials. India is making a renewed bid for getting NSG membership. It expects Moscow to help India get it.
The 48-member NSG works on the principle of consensus for admitting new members. India has not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for an entry into the group.
But New Delhi has maintained it has impeccable non-proliferation credentials that had enabled the country to get a waiver from the grouping to operationalise the India-US nuclear deal and get into nuclear commerce.
There was no Indian statement on Gokhale’s visit on August 24. But Russians said deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov held consultations with him in Moscow.
“The officials discussed the main multilateral export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, cooperation in the framework of BRICS and other topical issues of mutual interest on the international agenda,’’ a Russian statement said.
The NSG is the only major export control regime India is not part of.
India became a part of the Australia Group in January 2018, the Missile Technology Control Regime in June 2016 and the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2017.
Putin is expected to meet Modi in October for their annual summit. India is expected to take up the NSG membership with the US again during the two plus two dialogue between foreign and defence ministers of the two countries on September 6.
“The issue of getting NSG membership is an important issue for the government. Becoming member of the export control regimes remained the Modi government’s key foreign policy priority,” said an official. “We are now part of three out three export control regimes. That says a lot about India’s non-proliferation track record as well.”
Experts said the improvement in India-China ties could change Beijing’s stance against India’s NSG membership.
“There has been a perceptible change in the bilateral ties after Modi’s meeting with President Xi Jinping in Wuhan on April 27 and 28. So if China withdraws its objection, India could be a member of NSG,” said former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.