NEW DELHI: A day after closing the door on India’s bid to join the exclusive Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), China made a U-turn on Tuesday following the US government reiterating its strong support to New Delhi’s membership bid.
The Chinese foreign ministry said the door was still open within the NSG for non-NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) members to join and added that the matter could be taken up during the Seoul plenary session. On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying ruled out discussion on India’s bid for NSG membership saying the 48-nation club was still divided. On Tuesday, the spokesperson however said, “There is always room for discussion...But the NSG members should stay focussed on whether the criteria should be changed and whether non-NPT members should be admitted.”
Hours after Washington reiterated its support for India, saying it will certainly be advocating India’s membership, China appears to have toned down its opposition. “We continue to call on the participating governments of the NSG to support India’s application at Seoul,” State Deparment spokesperon John Kirby said. Asked whether the US took up the matter of India’s entry with the countries opposing its bid, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “We’ve made our views known both publicly and privately, and we’ll continue to do so... The US strongly supports India’s application.”
Since entry into the exclusive club depends on consensus within the NSG, opposition from even one member like China may spoil India’s chances to enter the group that controls access to sensitive nuclear technology.
India is also pinning hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jingping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Tashkent on June 23. “The two leaders meeting in the backdrop of India’s aggressive bid for NSG membership could possibly break the logjam,” a source said. Further, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar may travel to Seoul on June 23-24 to push for India’s bid. According to sources, depending on the “feedback” from the NSG’s official-level meeting ahead of the crucial plenary on Thursday and Friday, he may go to Seoul to give a “final push”. The NSG session started on Monday. (With PTI inputs)