It is not surprising that India has a burning desire to intently court the African continent, particularly the nation of South Africa. And it all has to do with nuclear power. India needs South Africa, among many other countries, to vote for its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). South Africa is the only African country with a commercial nuclear reactor and is also a member of the NSG. The NSG was first created in the 1970’s after India conducted a nuclear explosion through enrichment that was originally intended for peaceful energy sourcing purposes. Fearing the catastrophe that could result from the exploitation of nuclear material for the purpose of weaponry, nuclear supplier states decided to cooperate in controlling the export of civilian nuclear material and created the NSG. The NSG currently consists of 48 nuclear supplier states, including the United States, China and Russia. They have voluntarily agreed to cooperate in overseeing the export of civilian nuclear material and controlling the provision of nuclear technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.
India has not been granted entrance to this exclusive, elite group mainly because it has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The treaty’s objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. India is resisting this treaty mainly because the idea of nuclear disarmament is not palatable to the Indian public, as the country has a long-lasting tension with its neighbor, Pakistan.
Nevertheless, India has managed to convince South Africa and has garnered its vote to enter NSG. This is despite the fact that India has still not signed the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Unfortunately for India, though, its overall bid was rejected at the June 2016 NSG plenary meeting. Ten countries, including China, voted against its entrance. Many in China defended their country’s decision to block India’s bid. China’s Global Times published an editorial stating, “Since its foundation in 1975, all NSG members shall be NPT signatories. This has become the primary principle of the organization. Now India wants to be the first exception to join the NSG without signing the NPT. It is morally legitimate for China and other members to upset India’s proposal in defense of principles.
Geopolitical analysts suggested that China was also keen to stall India’s bid as it would disrupt the power balance between India and Pakistan. Pakistan is also not a part of the NSG and has not signed the NPT. These suggestions were further bolstered by the fact that China sent its top nuclear negotiator, Wang Qun, to Delhi in September 2016 and 10 days later, his deputy was headed to Islamabad. After both meetings concluded, Beijing gave an almost identical statement saying that they shared “recent developments with its counterparts.”
Although it has not signed the NPT and is not a part of the NSG, India has set up an international agreement backed by the United States which allows it to import nuclear power capabilities and uranium fuel without abandoning its nuclear weapon ambitions. In November 2016, India also signed a civil nuclear agreement with Japan. Japan will be supplying fuel, equipment and technology for nuclear-generated electricity. Japan, which is the only country in the world that has ever suffered a nuclear attack, also supports India’s acceptance to the NSG along with other powerful nations such as the US, the UK and France.