India made renewed efforts on Thursday to bring China on board its bid for entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, hours before a crucial meeting of the elite group where New Delhi’s membership may be discussed.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to back what he called a “growing consensus” on India’s bid for membership to the group that controls access to sensitive nuclear technology.
“Prime Minister Modi urged China to make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application on merit,” foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters after a meeting between Modi and Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Tashkent.
“PM Modi thanked president Xi Jinping for China’s support to India’s membership of SCO.”
China is seen as the main hurdle to India’s NSG membership bid that has been supported by the United States and France.
Beijing says only countries that have signed a global arms control pact -- nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) – will be allowed entry into the group.
Present NSG rules allow only NPT signatories to apply for membership and China argues that India’s entry will set a bad precedent.
But China’s opposition to India’s application is also seen as support for its ally Pakistan, which applied for an NSG membership soon after New Delhi announced its bid. Islamabad hasn’t signed the NPT either and its poor nuclear proliferation record makes it unlikely that Pakistan will be granted membership.
A day before the two-day crucial Seoul meeting of the NSG, China hardened its stand on India’s membership and said only bids of NPT signatories will be on the agenda.
But India’s application is learnt to be on the agenda of the 48-nation grouping’s plenary in Seoul and is likely to come up at a special post-dinner meeting after Japan and other countries raised the matter in the opening session, sources said.
Indian diplomats, led by foreign secretary S Jaishankar, are in Seoul to lobby, although they are not the participants at the plenary in the absence of India’s membership.
The NPT says only five countries – US, United Kingdom, Russia, China and France – can possess nuclear warheads.
For years, India has held out from signing the NPT – one of the four countries to do so -- because it would spell the end of the country’s nuclear defence programme.
But New Delhi says it should be allowed NSG entry based on its non-proliferation record, no first-use nuclear policy and an agreement that has put most of its reactors under international monitoring.
With inputs from agencies in Tashkent