Beijing/New Delhi: China on Tuesday continued to stonewall India’s bid for Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) membership despite a fresh push by the US as the 48-nation grouping remained divided over the entry of a non-NPT signatory country like India.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry sang different tunes, first saying that it was not targeting any country such as India or Pakistan and then taking a swipe at the US for backing India’s case citing the rule that countries which have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) should not be allowed into NSG.
The Chinese comments came after the White House said India was “ready” for NSG membership and asked participating governments to support India’s application at the plenary session of NSG in Seoul two days from now.
At the same time, Beijing said the “door is open” for discussions on the issue but then emphasised on whether criteria for memberships should be changed instead of making exceptions.
In other words, China is seeking to equate India with its impeccable non-proliferation record with that of Pakistan for which it is batting. Given this scenario and continued Chinese opposition, it is very likely that a consensus on India’s membership will elude the grouping’s plenary on June 23-24.
Some 20 members are said to be backing India, some are undecided and some are opposed to it.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar may travel to Seoul to push for India’s bid for NSG membership at the plenary of the 48-nation grouping.
According to government sources, the foreign secretary is watching the situation “very closely” and, depending on the “feedback” from the official-level meeting of NSG ahead of the crucial plenary on Thursday and Friday in the South Korean capital, he may travel to Seoul to give a “final push”.
The official-level session of NSG started on Monday.
With China leading the opposition against India’s entry into the elite NSG, New Delhi is in a diplomatic overdrive to reach out to countries to support its bid.
Senior External Affairs Ministry Official Amandeep Singh Gill, in-charge of ‘Disarmament & International Security’ division, is already in Seoul to “garner” support as well as “explain” India’s case, sources said.
The main meeting of the NSG Plenary on June 24 will happen a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Tashkent for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit, which is also being attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Modi may meet Xi on the sidelines of the SCO summit and raise the issue of India’s NSG membership but whether the discussions pave the way for a seat for New Delhi at the nuclear high table is a moot point. China has been opposed to India’s entry into NSG on the ground that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
However, it has been batting for entry of its close ally Pakistan, also not a signatory to NPT, if India were to be inducted into the elite grouping.
India has asserted that being a signatory to the NPT was not essential for joining the NSG, citing the precedent of France.
India is seeking membership of NSG to enable it to trade in and export nuclear technology.
The membership of NSG, which regulates global trade in nuclear technology, is expected to open up the international market for energy-starved India, which has an ambitious energy generation programme. India has set for itself an ambitious target of generating 63,000 MW of nuclear energy by 2030.
The NSG looks after critical issues relating to nuclear sector and its members are allowed to trade in and export nuclear technology.
Membership of the grouping will help India significantly expand its atomic energy sector.