Seoul: India on Tuesday sought membership of four exclusive nuclear and strategic clubs, citing its impeccable non-proliferation record.

Building harmony: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the first plenary session of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit at Seoul. Photo: YONHAP/AFP.

Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG, is a group of countries that controls global nuclear commerce. Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, is an informal and voluntary association of countries that share the goals of non-proliferation of unmanned delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction.

As a country “with the ability and willingness to promote global non-proliferation objectives, we believe that the next logical step is India’s membership of the four export control regimes," Singh said.

India has been seeking membership of the NSG, MTCR, the Australia and the Wassenaar groups. Membership of these groups will allow the country entry into the mainstream of decision making rather than being kept on the margins of international rule making on such issues as export controls and non-proliferation, according to Indian officials.

Foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai was in Vienna recently to make India’s case for membership of the NSG. The Wassenaar Arrangement aims to promote transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies while the Australia Group is an informal forum of countries that aims to harmonize export controls to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons.

In his meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday, Singh had sought the East Asian nation’s support for its entry into the NSG, MTCR, the Australia and the Wassenaar groups.

India conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 resulting in a number of countries imposing sanctions on it. Singh’s comment on India’s non-proliferation record comes against the backdrop of the international focus on North Korea’s threatened rocket launch towards the middle of next month.

The US has warned North Korea, which is widely suspected of colluding with Pakistan in clandestine missile proliferation, against carrying out its plans. The US believes North Korea is planning to test a long-range missile next month.

Pakistan and China, which wield considerable influence on North Korea, are also attending the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

The first such summit was hosted by the US in Washington in April 2010. The summit aims to ensure that terrorists do not get access to nuclear weapons.

In his speech, Singh said India will participate in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 2013 conference of various nuclear security activities—in line with the primacy accorded to the body to lead such events.

“The IAEA has a central role in strengthening the international global nuclear security architecture. I am happy to announce that India will contribute $1 million to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund for the year 2012-13," Singh said.

Maintaining the security of nuclear materials, including highly enriched uranium and plutonium, “is primarily a national responsibility but there are benefits to be gained by supplementing responsible national actions through sustained and effective international cooperation," he said.

Separately, tabling a report on the actions India has taken to improve nuclear security since the 2010 Washington summit, the government said it had transferred the enriched uranium used in India’s Apsara research reactor in Mumbai to a “safeguarded facility" in December last year. This is in accordance with plans outlined at the summit to gradually minimize and eliminate the use of highly enriched uranium in nuclear plants. “Apsara will use indigenous fuel which is not high enriched uranium," the report said.

India had also offered assistance under the aegis of the IAEA to search and recover “orphan" or unclaimed radioactive sources “in countries which were unable to effectively deal with them and sought such assistance."

The joint communiqué released at the end of the summit in Seoul renewed the political commitments made at the previous Washington summit “toward strengthening nuclear security, reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism and preventing terrorists, criminals or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials." It noted that “nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security" and “defeating this requires strong national measures and international cooperation given its potential global political, economic, social and psychological consequences."

The next summit will be hosted by the Netherlands in 2014.