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Making Sense Of NSG: How India’s History With Nuclear Arms Is Quite Complicated

By Vaibhav Mangla:

India’s recent bid to join NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) witnessed a sharp setback in Seoul, South Korea with China and seven other nations raising concerns about non-signatories to the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) being admitted to the group. India had attempted a massive outreach to all the other countries for being part of the elite group with countries like USA, Switzerland, UK supporting India’s bid for the membership. The NSG, which provides its members with a framework under which they can take part in nuclear trade with the other nations, had already given India a country specific waiver in 2008 for accessing the nuclear technology of the US under the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement. But to understand the recent developments, we need to look at the history of the NSG and how it has implications in today’s context.

India And NSG

NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974. The tests showed that the non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be used by countries for making weapons and the limiting of this technology to the countries which had signed the NPT was essential. So, the NPT signatory countries came together to form the NSG group. India’s isolation from NSG group meant it was not able to expand its civil nuclear programme. In 1998, India conducted five more nuclear tests and it faced a lot of criticism and economic sanctions from the western world due to which its isolation regarding its civilian nuclear programme continued.

Then came president Bush who decided to drop all sanctions on India and talks on a civil nuclear cooperation started. Both President Bush and PM Manmohan Singh fought hard for the deal to materialise. President Bush, by getting an NSG waiver for India to access American nuclear technology for civilian purposes; and PM Manmohan Singh, by facing opposition from its own ally, the Left, and facing a no-confidence motion in the Indian Parliament which it won marginally.

This Indo-US nuclear deal and India’s non-proliferation record, even though it had not signed the NPT, led us to engage in civil nuclear commerce with many countries. India is currently negotiating the supply of advanced nuclear reactors from France and Russia among others. After signing the nuclear deal, the next step was to get membership of the four export control bodies MTCR, NSG, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group. But the previous government was slow in acquiring these memberships.

The Present Situation

The Modi government put on priority gaining the membership of these groups. He eased relations with Italy which was blocking India’s entry into MTCR by sending the two Italian marines who had killed Indian fishermen back. Finally, a few days ago India formally joined MTCR, paving the way for the country to access technologies that will boost its missile, space and unmanned aerial vehicle programmes. It will help India in exporting the Brahmos missile and buying drones from the US. But things did not look so bright for NSG membership.

With the US on its side and PM Modi and his foreign secretary trying hard by reaching out to the NSG members and getting their support for India’s membership, India was eagerly awaiting the NSG delegate meeting to be held on June 23, 2016, in Seoul. But China openly opposed India’s membership to NSG on the grounds that it had not signed NPT. Some other countries too opposed India’s entry into the elite club but the main opposition was from China and, as a result, India’s entry into the NSG was stopped.

What Next?

Now the application is before the NSG. They will meet again this year. India’s hopes of getting the membership, however, are slim because of continued opposition from China. India can also not sign the NPT since it will mean giving up the nuclear arms it currently has. Since India still enjoys most of the advantages of the NSG group due to the 2008 waiver, it can focus on the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group and wait till it can convince China to support their bid. At the same time, since China is not part of MTCR and now India is, it can block China’s entry into the MTCR and maybe trade it for the NSG membership in future. The path forward for India is difficult and will require careful strategic steps.

Featured image credit: Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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