India in Australia Group – Looking at NSG

February 5, 2018 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army


January 19, 2018 saw India becoming a member of the Australia Group. The Australia Group restricts trade in materials used to make chemical and biological weapons. It was formed in 1985 prompted by Iraq's use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) for placing checks on development of chemical weapons; international export controls on chemical weapons and precursor chemicals. Its focus was subsequently expanded to include chemical production equipment/technologies and measures to prevent proliferation of biological weapons.

Australia Group is one of the four Non-Proliferation Regimes in the world, the other three being:

  1. Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which keeps a check on transfer of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of carrying a payload of at least 500 kg over a range of at least 300 km;
  2. Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), originally a 41-member group that coordinates and harmonize policies governing exports of arms, dual-use equipment and sensitive technologies, and;
  3. Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) that controls export of nuclear material and technology by focusing on stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

India became a member of the MTCR in 2016. The membership gave India access to high-end missile technology from across the world, allowing India to purchase top-of-the-line missile systems, and has paved the way for India to export its supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles developed jointly with Russia. In 2017, India became member of the WA This bolstered India's non-proliferation credentials as well as access to high-technology in the fields of space and defence. Members of the group are not bound by any treaty, but they exchange information on their transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods to countries that are not part of the arrangement. Having joined the Australia Group (AG), India's stature in the field of non-proliferation has grown further giving it more opportunity to acquire critical technologies. The US congratulated India on joining the Australia Group. US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert stated, "This latest accomplishment underscores the Indian government's excellent non-proliferation credentials and commitment to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including by regulating the trade of sensitive goods and technologies. Its (India's) accession bolsters the effectiveness of the regime's non-proliferation efforts. India is a valued non-proliferation partner. We look forward to continuing our work with India in the Australia Group in furtherance of our shared nonproliferation goals. The United States congratulates India on becoming the newest member of the Australia Group, an informal forum that seeks to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, and which now counts 43 members." India's attempts to join the NSG have been repeatedly stonewalled by China using terminologies like India's membership bid to the NSG has become "more complicated" under "new circumstances" and insisting that there should be non-discriminatory solution applicable to all non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory countries.

The real reason for China's stubbornness is not the platonic love for Pakistan and including Pakistan into global non-proliferation regimes, of which there is no chance whatsoever, but that China has been blistering with the slight that she herself has been denied entry to the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. But it is for good reason that China has been denied entry to these. China stonewalling India's entry into NSG from the shadows despite multiple ambiguous statements have all been on predictable lines. Grouping Pakistan with India in saying both must join NPT first is illogical because of Pakistan's record of nuclear proliferation and growing global fears that she would pass on nuclear technology to terrorist organizations. China was also opposed to India's MTCR membership but then how could China be accommodated in MTCR with her established record of missile technology and nuclear proliferation to Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and even export of Silkworm missiles to Saudi Arabia decades back. China is a signatory of NPT but the she has indulged in nuclear proliferation in plentiful.

In 1986, Chinese scientists began assisting Pakistan with the enrichment of weapons-grade uranium. China not only transferred Tritium gas to Pakistan for 10 nuclear weapons but also provided nuclear technology and co-opted Pakistani scientists in a nuclear test at its Lop Nor test site in 1989. The most significant proliferation activity involved China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) providing 5,000 specially designed ring magnets to Pakistan. In his book 'The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation', Thomas Reed, former US Air Force Secretary pointedly states that China has intentionally proliferated nuclear technology to risky regimes, particularly Pakistan. In his interview with US News, Reed explained that China under Deng Xiaoping, decided to proliferate nuclear technology to communists and radical Muslims in the third world based on the strategy that if the West started getting nuked by radical Muslim terrorists or another communist country without Chinese fingerprints, it would be good for China.

China trained Pakistani scientists and gave them the design of the CHIC-4 device, which was a weapon that was easy to build a model for export. There is evidence that AQ Khan used Chinese designs in his nuclear designs. Notes from his lectures later turned up in Libya. China dealt with Saudis, North Koreans, and the Algerians similarly. China tested Pakistan's first bomb for her in 1990. More recently, there is recent evidence that China continues to provide missiles and oil to North Korea despite UN sanctions. China's aims in blocking India's NSG membership include: hinder India's uranium supply to some extent and access to latest nuclear technology to some extent; deny India sitting at the nuclear trade group including export of nuclear components by India; deny India build its case for a UNSC seat as an NSG member; give a royal snub to America who fully supports India's NSG membership and exhorting other members to do so, and; demonstrate to the world China's clout as an emerging "Great Power" moulding global opinions despite herself defaulting on agreements she is signatory to. Considering that UN is a world body, China may find it difficult to stop India's UNSC membership, given her own aggression against the world at large. However, China should be expected to continue playing 'dog in the manger' in continuing to veto India's NSG membership.