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UPSC Essentials: Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and India’s Membership

Dec 20, 2022

Explained: Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and India’s Membership for UPSC

The topic of NSG is a hotly discussed one among UPSC aspirants. It is an important topic that has a high chance of being asked in the exam. In this blog post, we shall learn about the NSG and why India wants to be a member of it. 

About the NSG and India: A Short Introduction

The full form of NSG is the Nuclear Suppliers Group and it is a multi-national body of countries formed with the single goal of preventing the increase of countries that can supply nuclear weapons to other nations. It carries out its mission by putting curbs on the export of development materials for nuclear weapons and all related technology. 

If you plan to choose Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) as your optional subject for UPSC Mains, then this blog is a must-read for you. However, the importance of this topic is not limited to PSIR optional alone. It is also essential from a UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains GS Paper 2 - International Relations (International Organisations) perspective. 

India had a critical role to play in the birth of the NSG. On 18 May 1974, when India conducted its first nuclear tests, it alerted the world that nuclear weapons can be made with the help of non-weapons nuclear technology. 

UPSC Essentials: Nuclear Suppliers Group and India's Membership
UPSC Essentials: After 'Smiling Buddha' India became the sixth country in the world to conduct a nuclear test.

Nuclear weapons are made with nuclear materials like uranium and plutonium. However, to use them in nuclear weapons, they need to be upgraded from civilian-grade to weapons-grade. This is done by enriching the nuclear material. India had just proved that nuclear weapons can be made with non-weapons nuclear technology as well. 

India was the first country outside the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to successfully conduct a nuclear test and it became the sixth country in the world to do so. The test was called ‘Smiling Buddha’ and was conducted on the Buddha Purnima that year. 

Also read: Preparing for UPSC Optional? Here are some tips by AIR-07, UPSC’21, Samyak Jain.  

After India’s emergence as a nuclear power, the Nuclear Suppliers Group got worried that if countries like India keep developing nuclear weapons it can lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and disbalance the scales of power. They immediately held a series of meetings starting in November 1975 to improve the safeguards on existing nuclear materials. 

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is also called the ‘London group’ because they had their first meeting in London. Their seven-member group grew to include 48 members as of 2017. 

NSG Member Countries and Functions

The NSG member countries are a total of 48 nation-states. It created a set of guidelines that require states that import nuclear weapons to assure NSG members that they will not use nuclear material to make weapons. 

Here is a list of the NSG member countries along with the year in which they were elected as members. 

Argentina (1994)Australia (1978)Austria (1991)Belarus (2000)
Cyprus (2000)Czech Republic (1978)Denmark (1984)Estonia (2004)
Ireland (1984) Italy (1978)Japan (1974)Kazakhstan (2002)
New Zealand (1994)Norway (1989)Poland (1978)Portugal (1986)
South Africa (1995)Spain (1988)Sweden (1978)Switzerland (1978)
Belgium (1978)Finland (1980)Latvia (1997)Romania (1990)
Turkey (2000)Brazil (1996)France (1974)Lithuania (2004)
Rep. of Korea (1995)Ukraine (1996)Bulgaria (1984)Germany (1974)
Luxembourg (1984)Russia (1974)U.K. (1974)Canada (1974)
Greece (1984)Malta (2004)Serbia (2013)U.S. (1974)
China (2004)Hungary (1985)Mexico (2012)Slovakia (1978)
Croatia (2005)Iceland (2009)Netherlands (1978)Slovenia (2000)

The NSG created a set of strict guidelines that have to be followed by every member of the group. These guidelines have been divided into two parts - Part 1 and Part 2. 

In the first part, NSG listed a set of rules to govern the export of nuclear-grade items. A list of such items was created and it was called the Trigger List. 

The second part of the guidelines contains instructions for the export of dual-use items that can be used to complete a nuclear fuel cycle or help in creating nuclear explosive activity.

These items are allowed only when they are used for peaceful nuclear activities subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, for industrial use or for any activity that will not contribute to nuclear proliferation. 

Since its inception, the NSG has been tirelessly working to lead the multilateral nuclear export control arrangement. Over the years the volume of nuclear trade and the number of countries trading in nuclear material has increased. 

Since we are discussing everything nuclear, here is an interesting video about North Korea that you must watch. Watch Gaurav Thakur of GetsetflyFACT talk about North Korea’s latest missile tests and where it is getting the money to fund its nuclear program. 

What happened between India and the NSG after ‘Smiling Buddha?’

India was kept out of the NSG because the NSG had a strong rule that any non-NPT signatory country cannot be a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India had refused to participate in the NPT because it was discriminatory towards countries that did not possess nuclear weapons at the time. 

In 1998 India conducted Operation Shakti, its second nuclear test. While India was committed to a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and has taken voluntary measures to ensure tight control on the export of nuclear materials, the rest of the world was not so trusting. 

As a result, new sanctions were imposed on it by the Western countries, especially by the United States of America. When India asked the NSG for fuel to run the Tarapur Atomic Power Station it was denied. In addition, the US imposed Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) provisions on India to prevent the transfer of cryogenic technology from Russia.  

However, things did improve with time. 

Also read: Why mock tests are a must for UPSC CSE preparation.

Improvements in the relationship between India and the NSG 

The United States finally agreed to a civil nuclear deal with India in 2008 after India signed a civil-military separation plan and the India-IAEA safeguard agreement under the 123 Agreement. Due to this and the efforts of US diplomacy, India managed to get an NSG waiver. 

And things only improved since then. During a state visit to India in November 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. would support India’s participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime but ‘in a phased manner.’ 

To further strengthen its position India took a formal pledge stating that it will not share sensitive nuclear technology or materials with any other unauthorised nation and further, it will continue to uphold its moratorium on testing nuclear weapons. 

Finally, the NSG nations decided to grant India a ‘clean waiver’ and India was able to receive advanced nuclear technologies that allowed it to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium. 

While this has been a big help for the country, India is still not privy to the latest developments when it comes to nuclear technology. Only NSG members are allowed access to the latest nuclear technology. India applied for an NSG membership in 2016. 

Also read: 6 best magazines for UPSC CSE exam preparation. 

Barriers to India’s entry into NSG

A majority of the NSG member countries are in support of India’s entry into the group. India has shown continuous adherence to IAEA safeguards. Plus, it has voluntarily taken measures to abide by the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and NSG guidelines. 

However, China, New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria were opposed to India’s admission into the NSG. China especially insisted that India sign the NPT first. 

Also read: How to read the newspaper like a pro for UPSC CSE

Why is NSG membership important for India? 

India applied for an NSG membership because of the following reasons: 

  • NSG membership will allow India access to the latest nuclear technology from other member nations. 
  • As the full form of NSG suggests, access to the latest nuclear technology will boost the Make In India efforts and in turn give a boost to our economic growth. 
  • It will allow India to keep its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and source 40% of its energy from renewable sources. For this to be possible, India needs access to the latest nuclear technology. 
  • Once India enters the NSG, it can source nuclear fuel from Namibia, which agreed to sell to India in 2009. However, Namibia is also a signatory to the Pelindaba Treaty which stops it from doing so. India’s entry into the elite nuclear supply-controlling nations will ensure that reservations that countries like Namibia have do not exist anymore. 

With that you now know everything there is to know about the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and why it is so important for India to get entry into it. 

Topics like the Nuclear Suppliers Group are quite important in the UPSC exam and there are many such topics spread throughout the massive GS syllabus. It is tough to complete such a big syllabus and remember every minute detail in each subject unless you take the help of unique study tools like Treasures on the PrepLadder App.  

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Arindam Goswami

Arindam is a Content Marketer who looks after the Medical Super Specialty segment, specifically the NEET SS category, at PrepLadder. He aims to help aspirants crack exams and realize their dreams through his work.


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