China's great betrayal: Why did India's eastern neighbour block the NSG bid?

China stonewalling India’s entry into NSG from the shadows despite multiple ambiguous statements from Beijing (all orchestrated by the Chinese government since all media in China is state controlled), was on predictable lines. Grouping Pakistan with India in saying both must join NPT first means very little because despite Pakistan being a protégé of both China and US, more of the former, NSG members were unlikely to vote Pakistan in, given Pakistan’s record of nuclear proliferation and growing global fears that the country will pass nuclear technology on to terrorist organizations.

What China achieves by blocking India’s NSG membership includes: hinder India’s uranium supply to some extent and access to latest nuclear technology; deny India seat in the nuclear trade group including export of nuclear components by India; deny India the right to build its case for a UNSC seat as an NSG member; give a royal snub to America who was fully supporting India’s NSG membership and exhorting other members to do so; demonstrate to the world China’s clout as an emerging “Great Power”, moulding global opinions.

China was also opposed to India’s MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) membership, especially when they themselves have been denied entry into MTCR. But then how could China be accommodated in MTCR with its established record of missile technology and nuclear proliferation to Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and even export of Silkworm missiles to Saudi Arabia decades back. Post India’s admission into MTCR, a senior US official had stated that it (MTCR) "permits India to continue to advance its non-proliferation leadership in the world and contribute to that regime, to limit missile proliferation in the world". This obviously raised China's hackles especially since it views India as getting closer to the US, little realizing its own actions in concert with Pakistan are principally responsible for many developments in recent times.

 Chinas great betrayal: Why did Indias eastern neighbour block the NSG bid?

Representational image. AFP

Sure China is a signatory of NPT but it has indulged in nuclear proliferation in plentiful manner. Without doubt the nuclear programs of Pakistan and North Korea are China initiated and China sustained. In 1986, Chinese scientists began assisting Pakistan with the enrichment of weapons-grade uranium. China not only transferred Tritium gas to Pakistan for 10 nuclear weapons but also provided nuclear technology and co-opted Pakistani scientists in a nuclear test at its Lop Nor test site in 1989. The most significant proliferation activity involved China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) providing 5,000 specially designed ring magnets to Pakistan.

In his book ‘The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation’, Thomas Reed, former US Air Force Secretary pointedly stated that China has intentionally proliferated nuclear technology to risky regimes, particularly Pakistan. In his interview with US News, Reed explained that China under Deng Xiaoping, decided to proliferate nuclear technology to communists and radical Muslims in the third world based on the strategy that if the West started getting nuked by radical Muslim terrorists or another communist country without Chinese fingerprints, it would be good for China. China trained Pakistani scientists and gave them the design of the CHIC -4 device, which was a weapon that was easy to build a model for export. There is evidence that AQ Khan used Chinese designs in his nuclear designs. Notes from his lectures later turned up in Libya. China dealt with Saudis, North Koreans, and the Algerians similarly. China tested Pakistan’s first bomb in 1990. What reinforces Chinese lies is that while China raised a host of objections to exposures in Reed’s book, all were withdrawn subsequent to Reed pointing out facts were based on discussions with Chinese scientists. As for North Korea, not only has China actively assisted the formers nuclear program, it apparently wants North Korea to fire at least one nuclear weapon against another country (US, Japan, South Korea?) just to displace the US claim of being the sole country to have nuked another country

Why India terms the NPT and CTBT discriminatory is because these are hardly adhered to in letter and spirit by the
signatories. China claims it has never had an active biological warfare (BW) program but the 1993 US State Department Compliance Report stated that China continues to produce, and weaponize biological agents despite joining the biological warfare convention (BWC). Though China declared in 1997 that it had dismantled the ‘offensive’ chemical warfare (CW) the US maintains China has an ‘advanced’ CW program under cover of R&D. The Chinese claim of dismantling its ‘offensive’ CW program is misleading as sufficient weapons continue to be developed and maintained under pretext of ‘defensive’ CW program, for which multiple delivery systems are already in place. It is no secret that Pakistan, China’s protégé, too is actively following such programs, perhaps with active help from the mentor. During the Kargil Conflict, Pakistani RPG detachments were reportedly equipped with chemical rockets and the detachments themselves were outfitted with gas masks.

China’s current stance that it does not believe in waivers, (NPT in case of NSG membership) is hollow because China itself agreed to a waiver in favour of India during the Indo-US Nuclear Deal of 2008. That had happened after a telephonic conversation between the Presidents of US and China. But in the current settings China has adopted a much harsher and aggressive stance all around including Asia Pacific, South Asia or IOR. A significant fallout of China blockading India’s NSG membership despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussing the issue with President Xi Jinping and China signaling that “China will play constructive role” on the issue is that the Chinese mask is off. Much that India would not say so officially, China obviously considers India as its prime enemy perhaps after the US, blocking India’s NSG membership being just one such indication. But NSG is a side issue in the overall aggression by China that the world faces. The main source of China’s strength is its economy. But even as its forex reserves had fallen to $3.2 trillion, its external debt had ballooned to $1.68 trillion – and this was before Brexit. China may be making investments left, right and centre but considerable amount of its economy is being used up to pay back the interest on its debt. Among the many weaknesses that China has, this is a major one. That is something the world needs to consider in face of increasing Chinese aggression.

(The author is a retired Lieutenant General)

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Updated Date: Jun 24, 2016 15:10:23 IST