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Sushma Swaraj: China not against NSG entry

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jun 20, 2016, 1:07 am IST
Updated : Jun 20, 2016, 1:07 am IST

S Jaishankar was on ‘secret trip’ to Beijing

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at a press conference in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)
 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at a press conference in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

S Jaishankar was on ‘secret trip’ to Beijing

With foreign secretary S. Jaishankar making a secret visit to China on June 16 and 17 to convince Beijing to drop its opposition to India’s NSG membership push ahead of the crucial NSG meeting in Seoul that is expected on June 24, India on Sunday said China was not opposing its entry and had only spoken about “procedure”, while New Delhi announced it would not oppose any county’s entry into the NSG, including Pakistan. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi had “no role” on Pakistan’s NSG application since it (India) was not a member, but added every country’s membership application “should be judged on its merits”. She also said Mr Jaishankar had conveyed to Beijing it should focus on India’s credentials in non-proliferation instead of just the criteria for admission. She added she was confident that India would be able to convince China and a “consensus is evolving” on India’s membership. The minister said the South China Sea issue was not discussed during Mr Jaishankar’s visit but added that Japan had become a permanent participant in the Malabar exercises along with India and the US.

India fully well realises that its dreams of joining the 48-nation NSG group will be shattered if China continues to oppose its entry. New Delhi is relying on quiet diplomacy away from the media glare to press its case with Beijing. Speculation is rife that India may attempt to work out an informal deal with China, with New Delhi indicating it is not opposed to Pakistan’s entry. But whether India’s bid to get China to relent will bear fruit or not seems to be the million-dollar question.

There are also reports that Russia is actively backing India’s candidature, with just days to go for the Seoul meeting. As the NSG meeting date nears, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ms Swaraj may also personally reach out to the Chinese leadership.

“China is not opposing membership of India in NSG, it is only talking of criteria and procedure. I am hopeful we would be able to convince China as well to support our entry to NSG,” Ms Swaraj said. “I think that there is a consensus which is being made and I am sure India will become a member of NSG this year,” she said, adding: “The NSG entry is crucial for India’s energy policy.” She further added: “I’m myself in contact with 23 nations, while 1 or 2 raised concerns, I think a consensus is there.”

The minister said as far as Pakistan’s entry is concerned, India, being a non-member of NSG, cannot comment on its entry. “But we will not oppose entry of any nation to NSG. We think the application of each country should be considered on the basis of their merit,” she added.

Swaraj said India needs NSG membership to meet its energy needs at a time it is gradually moving towards more use of non-fossil fuels. “We are (currently) sitting outside the NSG room,” the minister said, adding that India seeks entry into the “room”.

China has been arguing that it is not specifically against India’s entry but that a level-playing field has to be given in case non-NPT countries are applying to join NSG. Observers note that China has sought to draw parallels between India and Pakistan through its stand, indicating if India is allowed to join NSG, a similar concession should be given to Pakistan. India is focusing on its immaculate non-proliferation record, knowing well that Pakistan’s record in this regard is abysmal, which is why chances of Pakistani entry into the NSG are extremely dim. India’s membership is likely to be discussed at the meeting of the NSG due to be held in Seoul on June 24.

“Yes, I can confirm that the foreign secretary visited Beijing on June 16-17 for bilateral consultations with his Chinese counterpart. All major issues, including India’s NSG membership, were discussed,” MEA spokesman Vikas Swarup said earlier on Sunday.

China is believed to be strongly opposing India’s membership of the premier club, arguing that it was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The official Chinese media had said earlier this week that India’s NSG membership would “jeopardise” China’s national interests, and touch a “raw nerve” in Pakistan.

The US has backed India and has urged various NSG members to back New Delhi’s bid. It is understood that besides China, a few other countries, including Turkey, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand, are also not in favour of India’s entry.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi