India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) didn’t come up at a just-concluded meeting of the elite group in Vienna, China said on Sunday, adding that more discussion was needed to build a consensus for New Delhi’s membership.
An official statement from China said several other countries supported its stand to block India’s membership, indicating New Delhi’s entry will be tougher than anticipated after Washington backed the bid last week.
The 48-country NSG controls access to nuclear technology, which India needs, for one, to meet its increasing power requirements. The club aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and was set up in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi picked up endorsements from Mexico and Switzerland, along with the US that is trying to convince other countries to back India.
But China has been fronting the effort to block India’s accession to the NSG and is supported by New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey and Austria.
Their broad argument: India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) treaty, a global arms-control pact that says only five countries — US, United Kingdom, Russia, China and France — can possess nuclear warheads.
China and its allies say if New Delhi is allowed to join the NSG, it could set a precedent for other non-NPT countries to argue for inclusion.
But Islamabad joining the NSG is also opposed by several countries, mostly because, as Reuters pointed out, “The scientist that headed its nuclear weapons programme ran an illicit network for years that sold nuclear secrets to countries, including North Korea and Iran”.
Also, despite not being part of the NPT, China has helped Pakistan to build nuclear plants. On Sunday, China tried to once again clear the air on its stand, saying that it had a uniform view of non-NPT members — which includes Pakistan — joining the NSG.
The foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, in fact, said the matter of India’s application did not even come up during last week’s NSG meet.
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He was answering a question that asked: “There are people saying that India’s admission will undermine the non-proliferation efforts and is likely to infuriate Pakistan. What is China’s comment?”
“There was no deliberation on any items related to the accession to the NSG by India or any other countries that are not signatories to the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” he said in a statement published online.
He added that according to the Argentinean ambassador, the meeting was convened to heed opinions on the NSG’s outreach and prepare for a report to be submitted at a group plenary meeting in Seoul later this month.
Hong reiterated China’s stand, saying Beijing believed the NSG should have full discussion before forging a consensus and making decisions based on agreement.
“The NPT provides a political and legal foundation for the international non-proliferation regime as a whole. China’s position applies to all non-NPT countries and targets no one in particular. The fact is that many countries within the group also share China’s stance,” Hong said.
Hong said NSG members are divided about including “non-NPT countries” in the group. “Looking forward, China will continue to support further discussion within the group to forge consensus at an early date,” Hong said.
For years, India has held out from signing the NPT — one of the four countries to do so — because it would spell the end of the country’s nuclear defence programme.
But New Delhi says it should be allowed NSG entry based on its non-proliferation record, no first-use nuclear policy and an agreement that has put most of its reactors under international monitoring.
India is also poised to join the missile technology control regime (MTCR) after talks between Modi and US President Barack Obama. Both groups — NSG and MTCR — will give the country greater access to research and technology.
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