India’s case at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) may not have been taken forward formally this year but it wasn’t shelved entirely, sources indicated here, saying that a decision had been taken on an “informal consultative process” especially for India’s case.
According to highly placed diplomatic sources, the closed-door session of the NSG that ended its annual plenary in Seoul on Friday appointed Argentine Ambassador Rafael Grossi as the “Facilitaor of the Chairperson to having informal consultations with the Participating Governments (PGs) in the group”.
The decision indicates that despite opposition from China and other countries on the issue of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that India has refused to sign, and the desire of several NSG countries to look for a “non-discrimatory” membership process that includes all non-NPT states, India’s application was acknowledged to have some merit of its own.
Members reportedly agreed to the informal arrangement after a special session where several countries raised India’s case, which went past midnight on Thursday and stretched into the next day’s concluding session.
Eventually the NSG joint statement only recorded a bland account of the session, recording that “The NSG had discussions on the issue of “Technical, Legal and Political Aspects of the Participation of non-NPT States in the NSG” and decided to continue its discussion.”
Ambassador Grossi’s appointment to assist the new Chairperson from Switzerland with the “continued discussion” on India is significant, as Mr. Grossi is the outgoing Chairperson of the NSG, and was keenly involved in bringing India’s bid to the NSG table this year.
During a visit to New Delhi in October 2015, he told The Hindu, “Nobody disputes that India is a key, major player in the nuclear scenario, hence there is a recognition that some formula must be found for India [to become a member] and I think it is possible.”
Sources say that not only is the selection of Mr. Grossi to the “facilitating” position a positive sign for India as Argentina has been very supportive of India’s bid, he is an international expert on disarmament, and negotiated the accession of 197 members to the Chemical Warfare Convention (CWC) some years ago.
He was also considered a frontrunner for the post of Director-General of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for 2017.
News of Mr. Grossi’s appointment came even as a U.S. official reportedly said that the NSG session had ended with a “path forward” for India’s acceptance as a member.
Speaking to PTI in Washington the unnamed source identified as “a top Obama administration official said that India’s membership process needed “some work”, but that the U.S. is “confident that India would be a full member of the [NSG] regime by the end of the year.”
MEA officials wouldn’t comment on either developments involving Mr. Grossi’s appointment and the constitution of an informal group on India or the U.S. official’s remarks, saying only that according to the NSG confidentiality procedures there is no “readout of what type of proposals were made inside the room.”