The plenary meeting of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) ended in Seoul on Friday with no decision on India’s membership bid.
China led the opposition on the grounds that India’s application could not be considered given that it has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Backed by nearly 10 other countries, the argument effectively torpedoed India’s bid although it had the strong backing of the US, the UK, France and a majority of countries in the nuclear trading group.
Chief Chinese negotiator and director general of China’s department of arms control, Wang Qun, told reporters that there was no consensus among the 48-member countries, a requisite to allowing a new member. He insisted that for a country to be a member of NSG, signing of the NPT “is a must”, a rule set by the international community.
Wang further warned “if exceptions are allowed here or there on the question of NPT, the international non-proliferation will collapse altogether”.
Asked about reports that Beijing was blocking India’s membership, he said the NSG had so far not agreed to any agenda item on participation of non-NPT countries. Therefore, there was no point of China supporting or opposing India’s membership.
The stand clearly showed that Chinese President Xi Jinping had not responded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s urgings in Tashkent on Thursday.
Seeking China’s support for India’s membership, Modi had urged Xi to make a “fair and objective” assessment of India’s application which came up before the Seoul plenary as the two leaders met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.
Among the countries that backed India were Canada and Brazil. The South American country held that India had a better nuclear proliferation record than Pakistan, the other non-NPT country seeking NSG membership. However, it did call for a common criteria of such non-NPT states.
For its part, the NSG said it discussed the issue of “technical, legal and political aspects of participation of non-NPT states”. Since no conclusive decision had been arrived at, discussions are set to continue, the group added.
Given the focus on the NPT, participating governments reiterated their firm support for “effective implementation of the treaty as a cornerstone of international non-proliferation regime”, the NSG said.
Switzerland was announced as the next chair country that would steer the group in 2017-2018, and will host the next plenary session.
During PM Modi’s visit to the Alpine country early this month, Swiss president Johann Schneider-Ammann pledged the country’s support to India’s bid.
(With inputs from ANI)