Almost a week after India failed to get entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) due to a China-led opposition, a US diplomat said on Wednesday that just one country can break consensus in the atomic trading bloc and insisted that such a member should be held accountable.
Tom Shannon, US under secretary for political affairs, also said the United States was committed to ensuring India's entry into the 48-member club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology and expressed "regret" that Washington was unsuccessful in pushing India’s bid in an NSG plenary in Seoul last week.
"We understand that in a consensus-based organisation, one country can break consensus. But in order to do so it must be (held) accountable, not isolated.
"I think what we need to do going forward is, for both of us India and the US, sit down and take a call what happened in the Seoul, take a close look at the diplomatic process which is significant and see what more we can do and how we can ensure that next time we are successful," he said in an interaction with diplomats and officer trainees of the Indian Foreign Service in New Delhi.
Despite the support of the US and a host of other countries, India failed to make the NSG cut last week, with China blocking New Delhi’s bid on the ground that it is not a signatory of a non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
The NSG, set up in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974, aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. On May 12, India formally applied for a membership.
India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington, even though it has developed atomic weapons and never signed the NPT, the main global arms control pact.
As the opposition led by China refused to adjust rules that require New Delhi to first sign the arms agreement, India said, in an unusually sharp but veiled reference to China, that one country persistently created “procedural hurdles”.
Describing India a responsible and important player in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation, Shannon said, "We are committed to having India join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We believe that through the kind of work we have done, the civil nuclear agreement, the way India conducted itself, it is worthy of this."
Shannon, who met foreign secretary S Jaishankar earlier in the day, said India's recent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) highlighted that the country was a "responsible and important player in the road to non- proliferation."
"We regret, in Seoul we and India, were unable to open space necessary to allow India to move into the NSG at this moment," he said.
Shannon, who called India an "anchor of stability" in the Asia Pacific region, said what China was doing in South China Sea was "madness".
Shannon said managing the rise of China was a major challenge and that the US wanted to work with India to have a strong and comprehensive presence in the Indian Ocean.
Shannon reiterated the India-US civil nuclear cooperation was a very important symbol of friendship between the two countries.
"Just a few weeks ago, President Obama and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi welcomed the start of preparatory work on a site in Andhra Pradesh for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by an American company.
"This is expected to provide jobs in both countries and bring clean, reliable electricity that will help meet India s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels," he said.
The US official pointed out that 130,000 Indians were studying in his country and more than a million Americans visited India last year.
As for bilateral trade ties, Shannon said “US and Indian business leaders and young entrepreneurs have shown their own ambitions to work together”.