India on Tuesday presented letters from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, seeking a still ambivalent Beijing's crucial support for the India-US nuclear deal.
On Tuesday, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan flew into Beijing for just a few hours of strategic lobbying ahead of the August 1 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board to approve the India-specific safeguards agreement.
China, one of the five recognised nuclear weapon states, is an influential member of the IAEA board and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that is likely to meet in the second half of August in Germany. An NSG consensus is crucial to end over three decades of India's nuclear isolation and operationalise the deal, but New Delhi remains worried about clinching Beijing's backing at the Group meeting.
Chavan had three meetings with high-ranking Communist Party of China officials, including a 'substantive' one-hour meeting with state councillor and vice foreign minister Dai Bingguo, but there was still no clear indication of China's stance. "We emphasised that India needs global civilian nuclear cooperation for clean energy and its growth needs,'' said Chavan, who visits Italy on Wednesday for more last-minute nuclear diplomacy.
China's all-weather ally Pakistan which wants Beijing to block the deal at the NSG, was not discussed. Last week, China's foreign ministry spokesperson cryptically said that Beijing is still studying the draft safeguards agreement. But Indian analysts estimate that Beijing does not wish to be a sole objector to the deal at the Group meeting, despite pressure from Pakistan.
Earlier in July, Indian officials indicated that they were 'hopeful' of Beijing's backing after Prime Minister Singh met President Hu on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Japan. Beijing also reiterated on Tuesday that it wants to 'further substantiate its strategic and cooperative partnership with India.' And yes, they wished India good luck to win medals at the Olympic Games in August.