Turkey a hurdle to India's entry to NSG club

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    Feb 16, 2009
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    Turkey-Pak ties pose hurdle to India's entry to NSG club - The Times of India

    NEW DELHI: Turkey's special relationship with Pakistan is coming in the way of better ties with India.

    In its quest for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India has come up against a Turkish obstacle: Ankara says it wants a "clarification" or assurance on non-proliferation. In addition, Turkey is pushing the case for Pakistan to enhance its engagement with the global nuclear body. India's displeasure has led to a sharp decrease in high-level interaction between the two countries.

    Feridun Sinirlioglu, undersecretary of the Turkish foreign ministry, who led a high-level official delegation to India this week for foreign office consultations, told TOI, "We see Turkey's relations with India as a strategic one. Our relations with Pakistan should not impact India. We want to enhance ties with India on its own merit."

    But he admitted that Turkey had raised a "non-proliferation" concern regarding India's membership to the NSG. "Non-proliferation is an issue," Sinirlioglu said. But he went on to say that Turkey did not object to India's NSG membership. Turkey is pushing a criteria-based membership to the nuclear body, which India believes, is aimed at making way for an exemption for Pakistan. Ankara, however, denies this.

    The nuclear membership is close to India's heart. Turkey's stand has resulted in a sharp decline in bilateral engagement with India, despite the fact that it is regarded as an important partner. National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon was expected to be in Turkey earlier this month, but inexplicably cancelled his visit at the last minute, citing scheduling problems.

    Turkey supported the waiver for nuclear commerce with India at the NSG in 2008. Hence, the raising of objections on non-proliferation concerns has struck a discordant note in India. India, say sources, has no proliferation issues. But the objections are similar to the ones that China had made earlier, which were intended for the same thing: an exemption for Pakistan. India sees this move as being against its interests and is convinced Turkey is acting as a cat's paw for both China and Pakistan. Diplomatic sources aver that Turkey was keen on "helping" Pakistan, to "save" the nation.

    India went through an arduous process of a nuclear deal with the US and was granted a waiver by the NSG. A couple of years later, China announced it would sell a couple of new nuclear reactors to Pakistan, which it said was "grandfathered" at the time of China joining the NSG. Given China's growing stature, there was little or no objection from the NSG. Turkey has argued that Pakistan's "engagement" with the NSG should increase. However, India interprets this as a backdoor entry for Pakistan, a known nuclear proliferator, into the nuclear body.

    Turkey, indicated Sinirlioglu, was looking at nuclear cooperation with India. Turkey is in the market to buy several nuclear reactors. It is currently focused on Russia, but India could also look at Turkey as a reactor market. That needs an NSG membership for India. Wires are clearly crossed between New Delhi and Ankara.

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