China appears to be mellowing down on its strident opposition to Indo-US civil nuclear deal as it expressed readiness to cooperate with all countries on the peaceful use of atomic energy under the IAEA safeguards.
China is ready to "explore cooperation with all countries for the peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told an 11-member Eminent Persons' Group (EPG) from India which called on him here yesterday, delegation sources said.
While Yang did not further speak of possible Sino-India civilian nuclear cooperation, the two governments have already hinted on such a move during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to India last year.
"Considering that for both India and China, expansion of civilian nuclear energy programme is an essential and important component of their national energy plans to ensure energy security, the two sides agree to promote cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, consistent with their respective international commitments," the joint declaration issued during Hu's visit had said.
The Indian side to the two-day sixth session of the EPG meeting was led by former Ambassador to China, CV Ranganathan, while the Chinese delegation was headed by the former Vice Foreign Minister, Liu Shuqing.
The Indian side was a little surprised that Yang did not harp on India not being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), delegation sources said.
They said it seemed that China is eagerly looking forward to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's planned visit within this year.
Earlier this week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also said he was looking forward to Singh's visit and that both sides were making active preparations for a "successful" outcome.
"The visit to be paid to China by Prime Minister Singh within this year is an important diplomatic event in China-India relations. It is also a big event in the development of China-India relations," Wen said. "We are now making vigorous preparations for the visit to ensure that the visit will be a success."
Commenting on the outcome of the two-day EPG meeting, ex-Chinese Ambassador to India, Cheng Ruisheng, also an EPG member from China, said both sides used it as a kind of preparatory meeting for the Indian Prime Minister's visit.
Chen said the discussions covered a gamut of topics like bilateral, regional and international issues. The Chinese side apparently expressed concerns over the proposed quadrilateral exercises in Bay of Bengal involving the navies of India, the US, Japan and Australia and their attempt to form an alliance, which Beijing calls 'anti-China.'
The Indian delegation reassured the Chinese side that the initiative was not aimed against China or any other nation.
The issue of India's growing trade deficit with China as well as the need to diversify Indian exports to China was also highlighted. The Chinese side strongly urged that India should accord China full market economy status.
The representatives to the EPG include members from industry, media, culture, academia, diplomacy and public life.
The EPG was constituted so as to receive ideas and suggestions from eminent persons from various walks of life so as to assist both Governments in finding new ways and means of widening and diversifying the bilateral relationship.