When he put a question mark over India’s ‘no first strike’ stance, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh effectively whipsawed any chances of India getting into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The minister stoked the issue again last week from the watch-deck of INS Vikramaditya; though this time, he only spoke of India’s “second strike capability”. On the other side of the border, an incontinent Imran Khan has been hopping around like a man on hot coals, waving towards a nuclear spectre slowly emerging on the horizon. A sense of a nuclear war, howsoever remote, is now somewhat tactile.
Imagine an Indian foreign minister walking into an NSG meeting with an application in these circumstances. Can you visualise a gilded invitation into the club coming India’s way? Pakistan, of course, is out of the question.
So, goodbye NSG. But, does it really matter? NSG membership is symbolic. India wants a place at the high table, but that’s it. In practical terms, it means nothing.
For, even with the one-time waiver facilitated by the US, not a megawatt of nuclear capacity has been added in India. Two units of the Kudankulam plant, grandfathered from previous times, are all India has to show by way of nuclear plants built with foreign help and fuel, and they have nothing to do with the one-time waiver.
Once in a while, we are treated to the joy of hearing a GE, Westinghouse or Areva furthering talks with India, but it quickly passes. While the 10 pressurised heavy water plants (700 MW each) of Nuclear Power Corporation of India have reasonable likelihood of coming up, there seems no hope for the foreign plants, which — apart from issues such as environment and liability — have simply priced themselves out of the market. An NSG membership would do zilch. So, while bidding goodbye to the NSG, India is also not going to miss it.
The writer is Senior Deputy Editor with BusinessLine
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