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China crushes India’s Seoul NSG entry bid

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jun 21, 2016, 6:36 am IST
Updated : Jun 21, 2016, 6:36 am IST

China on Monday snubbed India and virtually dashed its hopes of securing entry to the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the NSG meet in Seoul on June 24, saying that the issue of India’s entry

China on Monday snubbed India and virtually dashed its hopes of securing entry to the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the NSG meet in Seoul on June 24, saying that the issue of India’s entry is not even on the agenda of the meeting even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to personally raise the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where both the leaders are headed to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on June 23 — just a day ahead of the meet in South Korea.

According to news agency reports from Beijing on Monday, China’s foreign ministry said that the NSG remains divided over non-NPT countries like India becoming its members and that India’s admission into the NSG was not on the agenda at the Seoul meet. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted as saying, “We understand that non-NPT countries are concerned about their entry into the NSG. But since NSG is still divided about the issue, so it is not mature to talk about the entry issue in the annual conference in Seoul.”

Beijing’s statement came a day after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj announced at a press conference in New Delhi that while a “consensus is evolving” regarding India’s membership to NGS, China’s opposition to India’s membership to NSG was only about criteria and procedure. “I am hopeful that we would be able to convince China as well to support our entry to the NSG,” she had said.

Mr Hua, however, was further quoted as saying, “China maintains that NSG should have through discussion on the joining of the non-NPT countries in a way agreed by all parties, so as to make a decision based on agreement. This position is not directed against any country and applies to all non-NPT states.”

India’s case for NSG membership is being backed strongly by the United States, while China has blocked India’s entry into the 48-member group at the behest of its ally Pakistan on the grounds that India has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

On Monday, however, Indian government sources preferred to see a silver lining beyond the setback. Pointing to Ms Swaraj’s statement on Sunday — “I am sure that India will become the member of the NSG this year” — they said that the government was looking beyond the Seoul meet and will continue its efforts to convince China in favour of its membership.

China’s statement on Monday indicates that foreign secretary S. Jaishankar’s secret visit to Beijing — on June 16 and 17 — failed to obtain the desired results. Mr Jaishankar had conveyed to Beijing that it should focus on India’s credentials in non-proliferation instead of merely the criteria for admission to NSG.

Mr Jaishankar may travel to Seoul on June 24 when the NSG meets. The NSG is a body of 48 nations “concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials”. Membership of the NSG will help India “procure more fuel and nuclear components” and make it easier for New Delhi to engage in nuclear commerce for peaceful civilian purposes. Consensus among all 48 NSG member-nations is essential to allow a country to become a member. If China does not relent, India can’t be a member of NSG.

With Russia also actively backing India’s candidature, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may hold discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin who will also attend the SCO summit in Tashkent. India says it needs NSG membership to meet its energy requirements at a time when it is gradually moving towards more use of non-fossil fuels.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi