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NSG: France adds to US pressure on China

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jun 23, 2016, 2:12 am IST
Updated : Jun 23, 2016, 2:12 am IST

France on Wednesday issued an appeal to all NSG members to support India’s bid for membership of the 48-member grouping ahead of the crucial meeting on Thursday between Prime Minister Narendra Modi an

France on Wednesday issued an appeal to all NSG members to support India’s bid for membership of the 48-member grouping ahead of the crucial meeting on Thursday between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. The French announcement comes soon after the US proclamation of support and is a big boost for India.

With the US and France batting for India, pressure is mounting on Beijing to relent on New Delhi’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India is going all out for “immediate” membership of the NSG at the crucial concluding day of the body’s Seoul plenary meet on Friday. Foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, who usually travels with the Prime Minister on his official visits, instead left on Thursday night for the South Korean capital. Sources said it was decided that Mr Jaishankar, as the “top negotiator”, would head for Seoul to supply any clarification at the NSG plenary should Mr Modi manage a breakthrough with the Chinese leadership at Tashkent. Mr Modi is expected to make a last-ditch effort to persuade the Chinese to drop their opposition to immediate NSG membership for India. The PM is likely to once again remind China of India’s excellent credentials in non-proliferation and tell the Chinese leadership to focus on “credentials instead of just criteria” for entry into the NSG. But China appears unrelenting in its opposition. Clubbing India and Pakistan together once again, the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing said NSG members have had three rounds of unofficial discussions on membership for the two countries.

China is seeking to equate India’s impeccable non-proliferation record with that of its all-weather friend Pakistan. China also maintains that the entry of countries that are not signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was not on the agenda of the Seoul. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also underlined the differences within NSG members, saying “parties are yet to see eye to eye on this issue”. For its part, Beijing will play a constructive role in the discussions, she said.

India asserts that being a signatory to the NPT is not essential for joining the NSG as there has been a precedent in this regard and cites the case of France.

In an appeal on Wednesday evening that came as a huge boost to India, France said, “Strategic partners since 1998, France and India share common goals regarding the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems ... France considers that India’s entry into the four multilateral export control regimes (NSG, MTCR, The Australia Group, The Wassenaar Arrangement) will bolster international efforts on combating proliferation. India’s participation in these bodies will help better regulate the export of sensitive goods, whether they are nuclear, chemical, biological, ballistic or conventional materials or technologies. In line with its active and long-standing support to India’s entry to the NSG as a full-fledged member, France calls on its members, who are meeting on 23 June in Seoul, to take a positive decision.”

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) confirmed that Prime Minister Modi would also hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the SCO Summit at Tashkent where the issue of India’s NSG membership bid is expected to come up. Russia has already announced support to India.

The NSG works under the principle of unanimity and even one country’s vote against India will scuttle its bid. While the majority of the elite group members back membership for India, it is understood that apart from China, countries like Turkey, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand are not in favour of India entering the NSG.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi