Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a transnational body comprised of nuclear supplier countries that aim to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons by curbing the export of nuclear weapons development materials and related technology. It seeks to improve the existing safeguards on existing nuclear materials. This is an important topic for candidates preparing for the UPSC 2023 exam. 

The NSG was formed in the wake of the nuclear tests conducted by India in May 1974 which proved that certain non-weapons nuclear technology could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The group had its first meeting in November 1975. A series of meetings held in London produced agreements on export guidelines. Although initially there were only 7 countries as members, there are 48 participating governments as of 2017. 

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Nuclear Suppliers Group Members and Functions

There are a total of 48 countries that are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India is not one of them. The NSG guidelines require that importing states provide assurances to NSG members that proposed deals will not contribute to the creation of nuclear weapons. Certain eligibility needs to be fulfilled for a country to become a member of the NSG. 

Given below is a list of NSG members 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)

A set of guidelines have been specified by NSG which need to be fulfilled by every NSG country in order to be a part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. These guidelines have been divided into Part 1 and Part 2 guidelines. The first part of the guidelines comprises governing the export of items that are especially designed or prepared for nuclear use. These items are known as Trigger List Items as the transfer of an item triggers safeguards.

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The second part of NSG guidelines is dedicated to the export of nuclear-related dual-use items and technologies, that is, items that can make a major contribution to an uncovered nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity. These items would, however, continue to be available for peaceful nuclear activities that are subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, as well as for other industrial activities where they would not contribute to nuclear proliferation. 

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NSG and India

India is not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The main reason for this is said to be that India is not a party to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It was in May 2016 that India formally applied for the NSG membership but was denied the membership as a joint decision by the other countries.

Since 2008, India has been trying to be a member country of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and there are various reasons for India to constantly push the US for accepting their offer to join. Given below are the reasons how joining NSG will be beneficial for India:

  1. It will provide the country with access to foreign-sourced nuclear material and equipment, reducing the risk faced by foreign nuclear industries in doing business with India.
  2. Increasing the business of these nuclear materials will enable India to make better versions of nuclear breeders and export them to smaller countries, thereby increasing the economic growth of the country.
  3. The Make In India program will also see a boost if India becomes a member of NSG because nuclear power production would increase. 
  4. It will also gain India an opportunity to initiate talks about the plutonium trade for its thorium program and gain massive domestic profits. 
  5. India aims to minimize the use of fossil fuels by 40 percent and use more natural and renewable resources of energy. This is possible if India gets access to nuclear raw materials and increases nuclear power generation.  

Causes for NSG’s denial from accepting India as a Member

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has been in constant denial of accepting India as a permanent member under the nuclear pact is because of various reasons. Given below are a list of causes that have led to India not being able to be a part of NSG, despite persistence:

  1. China’s denial of offering membership to India is another major cause of India not being able to make it to the list of NSG members.
  2. India has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) yet, which is essential for countries to sign to become a member of the NSG.
  3. Another reason is China’s interest in getting Pakistan membership of the NSG, which is also an NPT non-signatory. If Pakistan becomes a member, then no source can stop India from becoming a member. This is the reason why both India and Pakistan are unable to become member countries of NSG, despite persistence.
  4. Until and unless all the members do not agree with the decision, NSG is not liable to accept the invitation of any country to join NSG. All 48 members have not yet reached the consensus of letting India become an NSG member. 

Functions of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) 

Nuclear Suppliers Group is a nuclear export control regime formed by a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to prevent nuclear proliferation by keeping control of the equipment, export material, and technology used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

NSG had been formed by the seven countries in the year 1974. When they realized that the Non-Proliferation Treaty alone could not halt the spread of nuclear weapons, they decided to form a multilateral nuclear export control arrangement. Given below are the main functions of NSG:

  1. Controlling the export of nuclear material, equipment, and technology.
  2. Transfer of nuclear-related dual-use materials, software, and related technology. 
  3. Each member country must be informed about the supply, import, or export of any nuclear-based product.
  4. NPT will not be the only body responsible for governing the export of nuclear products. It will be divided between NPT and NSG.

Apart from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, there are various other International groupings that are committed to regulating the exchange of information and technology related to nuclear weapons, dual-use technology, biological weapons, and chemical weapons. Aspirants can know about them at the linked articles mentioned below:

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) Missile Technology Control Regime
Australia Group Wassenaar Arrangement

Over the past thirty years, NSG has become the leading multilateral nuclear export control arrangement. The volume of nuclear trade and the number of entities taking part in it is increasing rapidly and to effectively control the bigger trade volume NSG needs to work rigorously to ensure proper transfer of nuclear equipment and technology. Also, NSG will sooner or later make India a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and that will be an achievement for the country and a boost for India’s economic growth. 

Related Links:

UPSC Syllabus Civil Services Exam UPSC Notes
Nuclear Arms Control Essay Government Exams Essay on India’s Nuclear Doctrine


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