China virtually ruled out on Wednesday the possibility of India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at a meeting in Seoul, reiterating that the inclusion of countries that have yet to sign a non-proliferation agreement was not on the agenda.
Both India and neighbour Pakistan have not signed the NPT. Days after India filed its application, Pakistan, China’s all-weather ally, too made a similar bid to join the club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology.
Speculations were rife that China had softened its stand after Beijing said on Tuesday that there was “room for discussion” on the inclusion of the non-NPT countries.
As it turned out, that was not the case.
“Deliberation on the entry of specific countries is on the agenda of the Seoul Plenary Meeting (June 23-24). However, it is worth noting that the meeting is only to deliberate on the entry application of countries that are state parties to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).
“As for the entry of non-NPT countries, the group has never put that on its meeting agenda,” the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.
China has stonewalled India’s membership on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the NPT. The group, set up in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974, aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
India secured a US-backed exemption from NSG sanctions in 2008 as part of the landmark nuclear deal between the two countries. Even then, Beijing had declared the Indian exemption was not on the agenda, but the US had raised the issue and Germany, the then chairman, had accepted it for discussion.
The NSG works on the principle of consensus and a single hold-out country can spoil India’s chance to be part of the grouping. India has got the backing of most countries, including the US, Britain, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland and Russia.
Opponents argue that granting India membership will undermine efforts to prevent proliferation and irk Pakistan.
NSG members had three rounds of unofficial discussions on the entry of India and Pakistan into the grouping, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
“China hopes to discuss further this issue and will play a constructive role in the discussions,” she said.
“Although parties are yet to see eye to eye on this issue, such discussions help them better understand each other. China hopes to further discuss this issue and will play a constructive role in the discussions.”