10 Jun 2016

NZ wavers on India nuke membership

8:40 pm on 10 June 2016

New Zealand is reported to have softened its stance against a renewed American-led push for India to join a club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, left and and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Nuclear Security Summit in  Washington, DC.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, left and and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

New Zealand took a hard line against a similar bid eight years ago under former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Foreign Minister Phil Goff, laying down five conditions India needed to meet.

Members of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group met in Vienna and several opponents - including New Zealand - reportedly appeared more willing to work towards a compromise.

The group aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make those arms.

It was set up in response to India's first nuclear test in 1974.

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to the group's rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with the United States.

China was strongly opposed, and instead backed a bid by India's military rival, Pakistan, to join.

A Pakistani official called Foreign Minister Murray McCully this week to also seek New Zealand support.

Pakistan joining would be unacceptable to many, given its track record. The father of its nuclear weapons program ran an illicit network for years that sold nuclear secrets to countries including North Korea and Iran.

"By bringing India on board, it's a slap in the face of the entire non-proliferation regime," a diplomatic source from a country resisting India's bid said on condition of anonymity.

China demanded nations wanting to join the NSG should first sign up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

India has nuclear weapons and has never signed the treaty.

Most of those opposing India's joining the group argued the country should only be admitted under criteria that apply equally to all states rather than under a "tailor-made" solution for a US ally.

Mexico's president said on Wednesday his country now backed India's membership bid.

- Reuters

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