Ruling out any strategic competition between India and China, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Tuesday sought to clear the “NSG misunderstanding", and said Beijing's policy on supporting India was set much before the Sept 4 meeting of the 45-nation nuclear cartel in Vienna.
“The policy was set much before that. When consensus was reached, China had already made it clear in a certain way that we have no problem with the statement,” Yang told a gathering of diplomats, experts and journalists in New Delhi at Hotel Hyatt Regency.
He was replying to a question on India's sense of disappointment at China's perceived obstructionist role in the meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group that culminated in a landmark waiver on Sept 6 to resume global nuclear trade with New Delhi.
Stressing that he wanted to clear the misunderstanding that was threatening to cast a shadow on ties between the two countries, Yang said: “When I reached Kolkata, I was in for a big shock and surprise at reading reports in the media. We adopted a responsible and constructive approach (in the NSG).” Yang said this after delivering a lecture on India-China relations.
“When consensus was reached in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), China was a serious discussant. Likewise in the NSG, we participated in consensus hearings,” he said.
Beijing's reported last-minute maneuvering to block consensus in the NSG created much heartburn in India with the foreign ministry registering a demarche to the Chinese ambassador on the issue.
When External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee met Yang on Tuesday, he sought clarifications on the NSG issue as top Chinese leaders had assured their Indian counterparts that Beijing will not stand in the way of India in the NSG.
Beijing's NSG stance has also revived a debate on whether New Delhi can trust Beijing as the two countries deepen their economic and strategic ties.
“We fully understand the desire of India to make full use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. There is a need for India to develop nuclear energy. And so it is for China. You are a big country,” he said.
However, he added that the pursuit of nuclear energy should be balanced with commitment to global non-proliferation order. “The international non-proliferation regime should be protected. This is not only the view of China but of international community,” he stressed.
Putting the NSG issue in the broader perspective of strategic relations between the two countries, Yang said Asia is big enough to accommodate both the rise of India and that of China and stressed that the two countries are partners, and not rivals.
Yang, who wrapped up his three-day visit to India on Tuesday, ruled out any adversarial competition between India and China in the days to come. “I don't see any competition in a very fundamental sense. In strategic sense, there is no competition between us,” he said.
Emphasising the centrality of India-China relations to an evolving world order, Yang said: “A rising tide can lift both India and China. One plus one is more than two. It's in the fundamental interests of not only our two nations but also that of the world.”