In what could spell potential good news for India, China has indicated that it is willing to discuss the possibility of having India as member of the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India has been seeking the NSG membership for quite some time, but has always faced strong opposition from China. Despite PM Narendra Modi reaching out to Chinese President Xi Jinping, China had blocked India’s membership bid in June this year. But ahead of the BRICS Summit this weekend, a senior Chinese diplomat has reportedly said that the “possibilities” can be discussed – in effect extending an olive branch to India.
According to a Reuters report, Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong has said, “On the issue of joining the NSG, China and India have all along had very good communications, and (China) is willing to have further communications with the Indian side, to increase consensus.” Baodong’s remarks come days before Xi Jinping’s schduled India visit for the BRICS Summit. “On this (NSG), China is willing to jointly explore all kinds of possibilities with India, but this must accord with the charter of the NSG, and certain rules need to be respected by all sides,” Li added.
PM Modi and Xi Jinping will meet on the sidelines of the summit and the NSG membership issue may be discussed. PM Modi is also expected to pitch that China should withdraw its technical hold and allow JeM chief Masood Azhar to be listed as a banned terrorist by the United Nations. China has always opposed India’s NSG entry bid on the grounds that the country refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, US, France and Russia, among a host of other nations are willing to overlook this detail, and have hoped that a deal can be reached.
India had last month held “substantive” talks with China on its attempt to join the NSG. NSG is a 48-nation group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. NSG’s membership will help India significantly expand its atomic energy sector. NSG’s members are allowed to trade in and export nuclear technology. India’s bid for full membership, if granted, would tip the balance of power in South Asia against Pakistan, whose own application has been backed by China, despite questions over its proliferation record.
India has been pushing for membership of the bloc for last few years and had formally moved its application on May 12. The NSG had granted an exclusive waiver for India in 2008 to access civil nuclear technology after China reluctantly backed India’s case based on the Indo-US nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Pakistan has asked NSG member states to be “objective and non-discriminatory” while deciding on expanding the grouping’s membership as Islamabad stepped up diplomatic efforts to raise support for its inclusion. It is believed that Pakistan has support of China which has assured that it would not support India’s membership until Pakistan was also given the same treatment. Last month Pakistan formally applied for the NSG membership.
(With inputs from Agencies)