For the first time in more than a decade, India’s quest for a place at the global high table faces a reversal of course. What amounts to an outright rejection of India’s attempt to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or NSG requires us to stand back and question exactly how we are presenting ourself to the world — and whether our foreign policy priorities still make sense.
Let’s be clear about one thing: the driving force behind the rejection of NSG membership for India was China. The People’s Republic has sought to hide behind procedure, claiming that exceptions to outdated non-proliferation rules cannot be made for India. This is obviously hypocritical; China expects, for example, that any number of other international rules need to be bent to serve its own rise. Just look at its behaviour in the South China Sea, where it seems to expect that the law of the sea should not apply to its actions.
China’s assertion on procedure amounts to an insistence that Pakistan should be considered for NSG membership at the same time as India. This is, for obvious reasons, farcical; no any objective consideration of the two countries’ records on nuclear proliferation suggests they’re comparable. Pakistan has been continually and consistently unreliable on it; India, whatever its past behaviour, has since the late 1990s tests, lived up to international non-proliferation commitments — even though it has signed no treaty compelling it to do so.