THE NATIONAL INTEREST — India and China are on a collision course. They boast the world’s two largest populations, two of the fastest growing economies on the globe and aspirations to lead the way into a new Asian century. The two nations’ fates will be intertwined for decades to come. Troublingly, China’s move last week to block Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is merely the latest sign of tension to emerge between the two Asian giants. Further competition and even confrontation await.
Competition between rising powers is hardly new or surprising. This particular case, however, shows China’s intent to remain the sole Asian power stretching from Siberia to the Arabian Sea. This was most recently demonstrated last week when China led the push to exclude India from the NSG. Membership in the prestigious group, which controls the trade of nuclear material and related technologies, would facilitate India’s nuclear power production. While legitimate concerns remain about India’s status as a nuclear state, Prime Minister Modi’s bid was backed by the United States, Britain, France and many others. These advocates could not overcome resistance spearheaded by the Chinese delegation, in a move that many Indians saw as purely political.
China’s NSG position could been seen as warranted given India’s failure to ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but Beijing routinely blocks Delhi’s efforts to play a larger role on the international stage. India’s push for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and China’s opposition to that move highlight this fact. Of the five current permanent members, only China has yet to offer even token support for the second-largest country in the world joining the exclusive group.