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‘A confrontation with China not on the cards’

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jun 11, 2016, 7:03 am IST
Updated : Jun 11, 2016, 7:03 am IST

Despite China opposing India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India appears reluctant to take the mighty Chinese dragon head on, with top government sources saying on Friday that New De

Despite China opposing India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India appears reluctant to take the mighty Chinese dragon head on, with top government sources saying on Friday that New Delhi does not want its relations with Beijing to be “polarised” and that “demonising China is not solving the problem” but is in fact making it worse.

The reference was of course to Indian media reports and foreign policy commentaries that squarely blamed Beijing for trying to scuttle New Delhi’s chances. Sources said the Indian government does not want to be “confrontational” with China and is looking to continue its dialogue with it to convince it.

Government sources said that a depiction of China as a roadblock for India’s entry will not serve Indian interests because such a portrayal will make China precisely that. Sources added that while India “can’t pretend China is supporting us”, Beijing “hasn’t slammed the door” as yet on New Delhi.

Sources also acknowledged that there were other countries as well, apart from China, that were not in favour of an NSG entry for India but said their numbers were in single-digits in the 48-member NSG grouping and that the government still had a few days to convince these nations.

As per rules, consensus among all 48 nations which are members of the NSG is essential to allow another country to become a member. If China does not relent, there is no way that India can get membership to the grouping. Incidentally, China is arguing that countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) can gain admission to the NSG only after full consensus and discussion and that any exception made should be valid for other non-NPT countries too (like Pakistan) to join the NSG. Experts feel that China is using Pakistan as a “shield” to block India’s entry into the NSG despite India’s immaculate record in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation and that Beijing’s ploy seems to be to place India and Pakistan in the same basket despite Islamabad’s dubious nuclear proliferation record.

But while Beijing has spelt out its stand while emphasising that it is not trying to “target” any country, there is a thinking in Indian official circles that there is an “ambiguity” in the Chinese actions since they have never told India directly that they oppose Indian entry into the NSG.

Government sources pointed out that while India “disagrees” with the current Chinese position on the NSG, Beijing should “look at the criteria, record of the candidate and safeguards taken”. There are indications therefore that the Indian Government is still hoping to work on Beijing and persuade it to allow India entry due to its immaculate non-proliferation record although many observers feel this is wishful thinking since China is unlikely to allow India in without a similar exception being made for Pakistan as well. Observers also point out that Beijing is furious over the increasing India-US bonhomie that it perceives is meant to contain and isolate it. With all this in mind, foreign policy experts do not expect Beijing to relent on the NSG and help India to gain entry.

Government sources are however insisting that India will “try to find common ground with China where we can”. But while observers point out that China is not the only obstacle as of now with some other countries too being opposed to India’s entry, Government sources said the numbers of these nations has “reduced by two” after PM Narendra Modi’s recent visit, since Switzerland and Mexico are now supporting India’s entry.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi