Hoping for support at NSG: India’s OPCW vote a message to China
India’s decision last week to vote against a UK sponsored proposal at the special meet of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that favoured Russia was a simultaneous message to both the West and China.
While India’s explanation of the vote made it clear that the country considered UK’s proposal incomplete as it would grant the Chemical Weapons Convention director general unprecedented and unchecked powers, it also sent a subtle message to China which also voted against the proposal along with India. It is hoped that this show of solidarity would help dilute China’s opposition to India’s proposed membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China’s opposition remains the biggest roadblock to India’s entry into the elite club.
India’s stand at the OPCW is also a reflection of Russia, India and China adopting similar approaches on key global issues amid volatility in global politics. Analysts said that the three countries might develop common positions on other issues of common interests as well, even as India would seek to strike a balance with its relationship with the Western powers led by the United States.
India voted against the UK proposal along with 23 other countries while 82 member states of the OPCW voted in favour of the proposal. The proposal needed support of 71 member states. Ahead of the vote India had explained to the UK and its supporters that India’s vote would be based on its principled position that the new proposal violated the CWC structure and that India was not satisfied with the UK proposal.
“We have studied this draft very carefully and have consulted widely including with the drafters and the main co-sponsors of the draft decision. However, we believe that on an issue of such grave importance, the consultations conducted by the sponsors remain incomplete,” said Venu Rajamony, India’s ambassador to the Netherlands and permanent representative to the OPCW. “It has been India’s view that the draft decision of such far-reaching importance and implications should be the end result of a comprehensive and extensive consultation,” he said on Friday last week.
In his statement, Rajamony further said, “While the convention gives primacy and oversight to the executive council and the conference of states parties over the functioning of the technical secretariat, this decision will grant the director general, as an individual, unprecedented and unchecked powers. This opens itself to partisan use of the institution of the director general.”
He said that assessed from the point of view of legality and natural justice, this appeared to be deeply problematic as the investigator also assumed the role of the judge.
“Therefore, India cannot justify its action in joining the effort for the creation of such a mechanism which is not in keeping with the provisions of the convention. As our concerns have not been addressed by the draft decision, India has decided to vote against the draft decision,” he said.
Experts said that the indirect message to China could help soften the Xi Jinping regime’s stance over India’s entry into the NSG. China, the only nation opposing India’s entry, has been suggesting that Pakistan be included as well. Unlike India, Pakistan is not yet party to requisite International Atomic Energy Agency provisions to join the NSG. Since 2016, memberships of other three export control regimes – MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group – have been granted to India.