India and China decided on Saturday to hold joint secretary-level talks on disarmament “soon” as the neighbours took a significant step forward on New Delhi’s bid for entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).
The two countries will also set up a mechanism at the foreign secretary level to discuss bilateral ties, signaling a thaw in relations that came under strain after Beijing blocked India’s membership bid at the NSG’s plenary session at Seoul in June.
The breakthrough came after an hour-long meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
PM received foreign minister Wang who briefed him on G20 Summit to be held in China. PM conveyed greetings to President Xi @htTweets— Jayanth Jacob (@jayanthjacob) August 13, 2016
Beijing had blocked India’s bid on the grounds that New Delhi is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). New Delhi considers the NPT discriminatory.
Saturday’s decision to engage each other on the issue of disarmament could boost India’s chances of securing NSG membership by the end of 2016. The NSG is a club of 48 countries controlling trade in nuclear technologies and fissile materials.
The two ministers had “lengthy” discussion on the issue of NSG membership with Swaraj linking India’s quest with its clean energy requirements. She underlined India’s willingness to discuss any “technical issue” that China might have on the issue.
Swaraj urged the Chinese minster to reconsider Beijing’s stance of putting a hold on Indian efforts to list Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Mazood Azhar in the United Nations Sanctions Committee in accordance with China’s “professed zero tolerance” towards terrorism.
India and China to hold a meeting of officials on disarmament in a bid to break logjam over India becoming an NSG member @htTweets— Jayanth Jacob (@jayanthjacob) August 13, 2016
“Overall, the discussions were in a positive, constructive and open spirit. Progress in bilateral ties reviewed, as also challenges on some recent issues,” a source said describing the tone and tenor of the meeting.
Swaraj reiterated India’s concern over the China-Pakistan economic corridor which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), an area India claims.
Sources said Wang didn’t raise the issue of South China Sea though he had said in Goa on Friday that India has to decide whether it wants to support Beijing on the territorial dispute.
A new mechanism at level of Foreign Secretaries agreed to discuss ties between India and China @htTweets— Jayanth Jacob (@jayanthjacob) August 13, 2016
“Positive assessment of expanding investments, more infrastructure cooperation, easier visas, greater tourism and expanded cultural, academic and civil society interactions were other areas of discussion,” the source said.
Wang, on a three-day visit to India, earlier called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and briefed him on the G-20 summit China is hosting in September. Modi will attend the summit.