China abstained at razor-edge Uranium talks in Vienna as Indian officials elbowed their way to a diplomatic victory, but the Chinese government said in exclusive comments to Hindustan Times that it supported India's nuclear power ambitions.
The comments from Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue were sent to the Hindustan Times on the same evening when reports from Vienna said China had tried to stonewall a quick waiver for India at discussions of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
"Both China and India are major developing countries in rapid economic development. The two countries need secure, reliable and clean energy," Hu, 55, said in a written interview. "Therefore, China understands India's needs for civil nuclear energy and related international cooperation."
India has refused to sign the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, calling it discriminatory. So if it wants to get Uranium without signing the treaty, India needed a waiver from the 45-country NSG, which regulates international nuclear trade.
In comments made as the talks were underway, Hu said: "Relevant issues are being addressed in the NSG. China hopes that NSG will find an appropriate solution that strikes a balance between nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy."
A Chinese official separately told HT that despite the reports from Vienna, "our position has not changed from the text of the (HT) interview."
The comments were made ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's India visit beginning Monday.
India's journey began with an unprecedented agreement in March 2006 that led to the United States changing its laws especially for India to allow Washington to sell Uranium to India going only by its word and past good conduct on nuclear affairs.
The battle then went to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and then at NSG.
"China believes all countries have the rights to peaceful use of nuclear energy and conducting related international cooperation based on the precondition of honouring international nuclear non-proliferation obligations," Hu said.
He also commented on several other issues related to India-China relations. Here are some excerpts from the interview...
Relations Strongest Ever
"In the first half of 2008, the two-way trade reached US$29 billion, up by 68.7 per cent over the corresponding period of last year. It is the fastest growth rate among China's top 10 trading partners.
India Must Relax Restrictions
"The total trade volume at the Nathu La border trade market was only over RMB4 million (Rs. 2.4 crores) in 2007.
China … hopes that India will further relax and eventually eliminate restrictions on commodities for border trade, which will help fully mobilize the enthusiasm of the businesses of the two sides."
"This year, India adopted measures to ensure the safety of torch relay of Beijing Olympic Games in New Delhi, and check anti-China activities by activists for "Tibet independence" on more than one occasion. China appreciates this. We hope India will continue to abide by its commitments on Tibet-related issues."
Alleged Chinese Incursions
"(The) China-India boundary has never been formally delimited … Pending an ultimate solution, China stands ready to work with India to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.. The two countries signed (agreements on this in 1993 and 1996) … China is serious about these two agreements."
"There are still some outstanding issues left by history between the two sides ... It is necessary to proceed from the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples and find a fair and equitable solution acceptable to both. It is fair to say that positive progress has been made in negotiations on the related issues."