BEIJING: In a blow to India's NSG hopes, China said on Monday that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was still divided over admitting the country and that New Delhi's application for membership was not on the agenda of the plenary of the 48-member bloc in Seoul later this week.
Beijing's statement comes a day after India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj exuded confidence in getting China's support for membership at the NSG - the global nuclear trade regulatory body.
"The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is still divided about non-NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) countries entry into the NSG and under the current circumstances we hope that NSG will make thorough discussions to make a decision based on consultation," Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, told the media here.
"The inclusion of non-NPT members has never been a topic on the agenda of NPT meetings. In Seoul this year there is no such topic," Hua said.
The NSG, which controls global nuclear trade, is to hold an important plenary June 23-24 in Seoul when the membership application of India, along with Pakistan, were scheduled to be taken up.
On Sunday, Swaraj said China "is not opposed to India's entry" into the NSG but was "only talking about the criteria procedures" to New Delhi's entry to the nuclear grouping.
China has been opposed to India's membership to the bloc on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Beijing has also said if New Delhi is admitted, then so should Islamabad, its all-weather ally, be given admission to the elite bloc.
India, which finds the NPT discriminatory in nature, has been backed by the US, Switzerland, Mexico, Italy, Russia and Britain. However, some member countries like New Zealand, and South Africa have been opposing India's entry. Consensus among all member countries is essential to allow a new entrant.
On Sunday, Sushma also said India "will not oppose entry of any other country. What we want is all the applications are decided on their own merits".
Sushma Swaraj's remarks came close on the heels of Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar's unannounced trip to Beijing last week to discuss India's NSG bid with Chinese government.
President Pranab Mukherjee had also been to China in the last week of May when he had taken up the issue with the top Chinese leadership.
The Chinese media has said that India's entry to the NSG will "shake the strategic balance in South Asia and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region".
The state-run Global Times daily in an opinion piece this week said that China could support India's inclusion to the elite nuclear club if New Delhi "played by the rules".