On 24-25 June, the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is expected to take a decision on the admission of India into the fold. The US, France, Japan, the UK and Russia have backed the entry of this country into the club, the only major holdout being China. Going along with the major power consensus in the NSG on India would ensure a significant weakening of West-centric policymakers in Delhi, who seek to send ties with Beijing into the deep freeze. Contrarily, should China veto Delhi’s bid for entry, such a move would have long-term consequences on Sino-Indian relations, including in the economic sphere, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has resisted those who seek to block several Chinese manufactures from entering the Indian market. China’s manufactures and services, including in infrastructure, telecom and energy systems, are often of high quality while priced well below the offerings of global competitors. Given that the continuing weakness of domestic R&D mandates the purchase of foreign equipment and services in selected fields, it would make economic sense to ensure that these be cost-effective, so that more items can be bought for less cost. China too would benefit, given the overcapacity that presently exists in that country in several sectors of the economy. It is in India’s national interest to have a normal relationship with China, and that both countries adopt a liberal policy towards visas and investment towards each other. If in the second half of the 20th century extensive commercial linkages with the US were core to faster growth, in the 21st century such a role is increasingly being played by China. After missing out on the US opportunity in the past, it would be unfortunate if governmental policies were to result in missing the China investment and market bus in the future.
However, the prerequisite for such a normalisation of ties is a willingness within the core of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to place China’s national interest above that of the Pakistan army, rather than sacrifice the former for the latter, as has repeatedly been taking place since the 1980s, the period when the Pakistan army began its transformation into an arm of the Wahhabi International, in the process becoming an incubator for terror groups that these days are active also in parts of China. A single year’s trade deficit of India with China would be sufficient to meet the $45 billion cost of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project that will be difficult to complete (given the security situation on the CPEC’s path) and impossible to make financially viable. Indeed, it would make far more business as well as geopolitical sense for China to partner with India in building a China India Economic Corridor (CIEC) that could link our country with the only superpower in Asia. Such a project would find its reception in policymaking circles in Delhi and in the states through which it passes much smoother were Beijing to join with Washington and Moscow, rather than Islamabad, in welcoming India into the NSG on 24-25 June. The four decades of the NSG’s existence has shown that India has exercised complete restraint in matters of nuclear and missile proliferation, unlike some of its neighbours. The spotless record of Delhi in the field of missile technology has now been recognised by welcoming India into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
Similar restraint shown in the nuclear field ought to be rewarded by facilitating India’s entry into the NSG at its forthcoming meeting in Seoul. Blocking India would encourage those in India who are lobbying for the transfer of nuclear and missile technology from India to countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. After all, if there is no reward for restraint, it would be better to sell defensive missile systems to friendly powers, especially such items as the Brahmos cruise missile, which has a $6 billion potential market within Asia itself.
Successive governments in India have stood by China in endorsing the 1950s inclusion within the PRC of Xinjiang and Tibet. This has been despite the fact that the Chinese authorities have issued stapled visas to visitors from that part of Kashmir that remained in India after the Nehru-Mountbatten ceasefire of 1949. In contrast, visitors to China from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are given regular visas, the differential treatment signalling that China recognises the state as belonging to Pakistan, a diplomatic stance incompatible with the normalised relationship between Beijing and Delhi that is essential to the national interest of both countries.
In the past, India was among the first to recognise the PRC, and to lobby for the inclusion of Beijing not only into the United Nations but to the UN Security Council as well. It makes sense for both countries to act in concert on a range of issues and to tear down the many barriers which separate them, and which do not exist between India and the US or the EU or between China and the US or the EU. However, this depends on the CCP core placing the interests of the Chinese people above the phobia against India of the Pakistan army. Should Beijing show its willingness to engage with Delhi on the basis of mutual respect as would be apparent were it to back India’s NSG bid on 24-25 June, the obstacles erected by third parties between India and China would steadily get torn down.