China Thursday indicated for the first time that it may not raise any objections when the 35-member IAEA board considers the India-specific safeguards pact in Vienna Aug 1.
"I believe countries could under the presentation of fulfilling international obligations carry out peaceful cooperation in peaceful (use of) nuclear energy and I hope the relevant issues can be resolved through negotiations between relevant parties," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing.
"We have taken note that the US and India are making further contact on this (nuclear) issue," Liu said when asked if China was planning to raise any objections when India's case comes up before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The spokesperson's remarks has raised hopes in New Delhi that Beijing, which has maintained an ambivalent stance on the India-US nuclear deal, will not stand in India's way in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
"We are hopeful that China will not oppose us in the NSG," an Indian official source, who did not wish to be named, said in New Delhi.
China, one of the five recognised nuclear weapon powers, is a key member the IAEA and the NSG.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon is to brief the IAEA board, that includes China and other NSG countries, on the India specific safeguards pact and other aspects of the nuclear deal in Vienna Friday.
Menon met Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yan in New Delhi and sought his support for the deal.
With the nuclear deal set to move to the NSG after a likely ratification by the IAEA board, China's support is crucial for India in the NSG, which has to decide on amending its guidelines for restoring global nuclear commerce with India.
Manmohan Singh sought China's support in the NSG when he met Chinese President Hu Jinatao on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Japan July 9.
There were no outright expressions of support, but Indian officials had said after the meeting that they were hopeful of China's backing. Foreign Secretary Menon had said he did not anticipate "a difficulty" from the Chinese on this issue.