The question of Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is reportedly on the agenda for the Group’s annual plenary next week in the Netherlands.1 As the NSG participating governments consider adding new members, the question of conditions for membership becomes paramount. This is particularly true for states that are not parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), namely India, Pakistan and Israel. These three non-NPT states in particular should be demonstrably "like-minded" in supporting the broader aims of the nonproliferation regime, of which the NSG is a critical component. To demonstrate this likemindedness, they should be expected to meet objective nonproliferation criteria for membership that ensure their behaviour is consistent with the objectives of the Group.
Positive feedback from some experts in India, Pakistan, and Israel suggests broad agreement with this approach, if not specific agreement with all of the fourteen conditions suggested in an earlier essay (listed below).2
It is noteworthy that in the case of India, the state first in the queue for membership, many of these conditions are consistent with current Indian policy. One Indian colleague has argued, however, that three of the conditions are "unrealistic" to expect of India.3
In fact these conditions—safeguards on all new nuclear facilities; CTBT ratification; and nuclear test moratorium—are entirely realistic if the expectation is that future NSG members share basic assumptions and approaches about the nonproliferation regime, in addition to agreeing to uphold NSG Guidelines. In this vein, it would seem that an Indian view that "the NPT did serve its purpose during the cold-war period, but has outlived its practical usefulness now" is fairly inconsistent with the current policies of NSG members.4
Each of the three "unrealistic" criteria are assessed below.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards on Non-Military Facilities
The first contested criteria (number 2 on the original list) would require any non-NPT state to place all new nuclear facilities located outside existing military nuclear sites on the list of facilities eligible to be safeguarded by the IAEA. The practical effect of this condition would be to limit nuclear weapons activities to current military nuclear sites. New facilities could be developed on existing sites, but any new nuclear-related site would have to be made eligible for safeguards.
It is not correct, however, to pretend that this is akin to arguing that "India shouldn’t be allowed to develop nuclear weapons for its security," as our Indian colleague suggests.5
In fact, India would be able to continue the development of its nuclear weapons program at its current sites unfettered.
This returns the debate to the "like-minded" question posed at the outset. Does India hold similar views on nuclear weapons as the other NSG members, including the five nuclear weapons states? Should the NSG really welcome as one of its members a state which, in addition to expanding existing military nuclear facilities on existing sites, would also insist on increasing the number of such military sites? Would that be compatible with India’s "declared intention to unilaterally follow articles I, III and VI of the NPT?"6
Such actions by India would be out of step with the global consensus on the need to continue to reduce the numbers and salience of nuclear weapons, as evidenced by the 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document.
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
A second criteria (number 8 on the list) that our Indian colleague dismisses as "meaningless" would require non-NPT states to "have signed and ratified the CTBT…with the understanding that its ratification will be automatically completed upon ratification of the CTBT by the U.S. and China. If another state in the region proceeds with a nuclear test, this could constitute an event as defined in Article IX.2 of the CTBT, thereby justifying withdrawal."
This condition is also required of the five nuclear-weapon states under Step 1 of the "13 Steps" contained in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference and reaffirmed in the Final Document of the 2010 Review Conference. It does not require India and Pakistan to ratify the CTBT before the United States and China have both done so. It has also long been assumed that both India and Pakistan would ratify the CTBT simultaneously and under the same conditions.
Returning to the issue of like-mindedness, will members of the NSG welcome a state for which "the CTBT is a dead issue…[in need of] a quiet burial?"7
Nuclear Test Moratorium
The third "unrealistic" criteria (number 9 of the 14) would require non-NPT states to "commit, pending the entry into force of the CTBT, to adhere to a unilateral moratorium on nuclear explosion tests, as required under Step 2 of the 2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document’s "13 Steps." It is unclear why this criterion is "meaningless,"8
particularly in the eyes of the international community, given that as recently as February 2010 Indian Special Envoy Shyam Saran reiterated that "India is committed to its voluntary unilateral moratorium on nuclear explosive testing."9
Yet, our colleague persists, "any signature without ratification basically means nothing," calling into question the value of voluntary unilateral declarations.
In any case, NSG members will have to consider if India's position on CTBT and a test moratorium is really consistent with the spirit of article VI of the NPT and with the recent UNSC Resolution 1887 (24 September 2009), which
"7. Calls upon all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing the treaty into force at an early date; [and]
8. Calls upon the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices as soon as possible, welcomes the Conference on Disarmament’s adoption by consensus of its Program of Work in 2009, and requests all Member States to cooperate in guiding the Conference to an early commencement of substantive work."
If this resolution is considered irrelevant by the NSG in the case of India, one should not expect that it will have much value for Pakistan or any other state.
It is clear from the tortured debates in India surrounding the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear deal that these issues are quite sensitive matters for Indian sovereignty. It is also apparent that it would be foolish to expect that India would happily make concessions that it believes are "designed simply to constrain" its nuclear weapons program just to become a member of the NSG.10
In his critique of these conditions, Rajiv Nayan concludes that "the reality is that India won’t modify its strategy of ambiguous nuclear weapon status for NSG membership."11
Of course, there is no requirement that India become an NSG member, particularly if it does not share the views and assumptions of the other participating governments. Thus, the real issue is whether it would be smart for the NSG to accept without condition India as a new member with the right to block consensus on any future decision by the Group. If India does not share some of the key perspectives and positions of existing NSG members, then admitting it into this consensus-based body would mean that India could determine its future direction in ways that current members have not fully contemplated. Judging from reservations expressed by some Indian experts, India would likely seek to weaken rather than strengthen the NSG. Existing NSG governments will want to ponder this before inviting India to join.
Fourteen Criteria for NSG Membership12
To become a full member of the NSG, a non-NPT state must:
1. Undertake to comply (as have the five NPT nuclear-weapon states) with the requirements of Articles I, III.2 and VI of the NPT;
Have in force a Voluntary Offer Agreement (VOA) with the IAEA whereby the non-NPT State undertakes to place all new nuclear facilities located outside existing military nuclear sites on the list of facilities eligible to be safeguarded by the IAEA under INFCIRC/66-type safeguards agreements (with duration and coverage provisions in conformity with IAEA document GOV/1621 of August 1973);13
3. Have ratified an Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement (as already done by the five NPT nuclear-weapon states);
4. Not be in material breach of an IAEA safeguards agreement;
Commit not to export or transfer items specified in INFCIRC/254/ Parts 1 and 2 to a NNWS unless such State has a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA)14
and an Additional Protocol (AP)15
in force with the IAEA, and is in compliance with its international obligations in the field of non-proliferation. This export condition has been accepted by a very large majority of NSG members and should be agreed upon by any new member;
6. Have in place legal measures to ensure the effective and uninterrupted implementation of the NSG Guidelines (both Part 1 and Part 2), including export licensing regulations, enforcement measures, and penalties for violations;
7. Commit to share information on "catch all" denials with the IAEA and the members of the NSG;
Have signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT),16
as specifically requested of India and Pakistan under UNSC Resolution 1172, with the understanding that its ratification will be automatically completed upon ratification of the CTBT by the U.S. and China. If another state in the region proceeds with a nuclear test, this could constitute an event as defined in Article IX.2 of the CTBT, thereby justifying withdrawal.
9. Commit, pending the entry into force of the CTBT, to adhere to a unilateral moratorium on nuclear explosion tests, as required under Step 2 of the 2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document’s "13 Steps;"
10. Fully implement all UN Security Council resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that relate to nuclear proliferation or terrorism (in particular, Resolution 1540);
11. Adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and have in place the corresponding export control legislation;
12. Have ratified the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), as amended in 2005;
13. Be party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, as adopted by the UN General Assembly in resolution A/RES/59/290 (April 2005);
14. Pending completion of a formal treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, commit to implement in good faith Step 3 of the "13 Steps" and "agree on a program of work which includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a treaty with a view to their conclusion within five years."
2. Pierre Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership: A Criteria-based Approach for Non-NPT States,” Carnegie Proliferation Analysis, May 24, 2011, available at:
3. See Rajiv Nayan, “Non-proliferation Lobby Analysts Seek to Corner India on CTBT,” June 3, 2011, available at:
4. Comment from an Indian defense expert by e-mail on June 9, 2011.
5. Nayan, "Non-proliferation Lobby," op. cit.
10. Nayan, “Non-proliferation Lobby,” op. cit.
12. Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership,” op. cit.
13. This goes beyond what has been agreed by India thus far, but should not be seen as a non-starter. It would be a step in the direction of the comprehensive safeguards commitment by the NNWS, while not affecting the ability of non-NPT States to operate and expand nuclear facilities on existing military nuclear sites outside IAEA safeguards.
14. IAEA INFCIRC/153 (Corrected).
15. IAEA INFCIRC/540 (Corrected).
16. This condition is also required of the five NWS under Step1 of the “13 Steps” contained in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review and reaffirmed in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.