The government’s obsessive quest for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is very like the hunting of the Snark, a macabre, tragi-comic pursuit which ends with the hunter becoming the quarry. Why is it so desperate? The External Affairs Minister, usually a sane voice in the wilderness of her government, has apparently said at her press conference a few days back that there is a difference between sitting outside a room seeking the indulgence of others and being inside making the rules. Of course there is, which is why India used to press for an expansion of the UN Security Council, where non-members actually do have to wait in an antechamber when it is in the closed sessions in which it conducts business. But the NSG is not the Security Council, and with the waiver of 2008, India no longer needs it for its civil nuclear facilities. It does not have to sit outside its closed door; this government has chosen to park itself there, begging to be let in, like a supplicant outside the portcullis of a castle.
The NSG has already made its rules, covering every aspect of nuclear trade, spelt out in its guidelines and trigger-lists. Complying with the fiat from the U.S. Congress in 2006, which demanded that India harmonise its export control legislation and regulations with those of the NSG, Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group and adhere to their guidelines if it wanted the nuclear deal, we have done so. The NSG’s original guidelines were issued in 1978 and revised in 1992. In 2010, two years after it granted us the waiver that freed us from its clutches, it decided that its rules should be updated; the revised guidelines, incorporating 54 amendments, were issued in June 2013.