China has expressed guarded support to India's quest for civil nuclear energy and rejected perceptions that the growing relations between New Delhi and the US were aimed at containing it.
"Every country has the right to develop energy in any form, including nuclear form, to meet its development needs," Chinese Ambassador Sun Yuxi said in an interview ahead of President Hu Jintao's maiden visit to India.
Sun, however, said that objectives of non-proliferation should also be maintained and strengthened.
When referred to India's contention that it abides by all non-proliferation rules although it has not signed NPT, he said "anything which can strengthen non-proliferation effort should be welcomed by the international community."
He said Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had recently apprised him about the issue and told him that India is trying to strengthen non-proliferation regime.
"I (would) like to take his word... If India is making effort, if any effort (is being made) to strengthen non-proliferation, I agree," he said.
This is the clearest statement on India's quest for civil nuclear deal by China which has so far remained vague on the issue.
The Chinese envoy, however, refused to comment on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal as it was a bilateral issue.
The remark is significant as China is being seen as one which could cause problems when India's case comes up in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Several American experts, including former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, recently said that China would ask why an exception is being made with regard to India.
Sun also rubbished the perception that growing relations between the US and India were aimed at containing China.
"It is only speculation, some thinking of legacies of the Cold War," he said.
Sun noted that US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had both said that development of the relations between the two countries are not targeted against any third country.
"We appreciate that. I believe that is true," the Chinese Ambassador said.
Pointing out that India and China were strategic partners, he said their relations were witnessing an all-round development. "Our relations are fast developing in a healthy way," he emphasised.