BEIJING: China, which has been opposing India's NSG membership bid, today for the first time said the "door is open" for discussions on the issue but took a swipe at the US for backing India, saying it was one of those who made the rule against the entry of non-NPT countries into NSG.
Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, asked the 48-member NSG to "stay focussed" on whether the criteria should be changed on entry of non-NPT countries into the elite group. "I have not seen the US statement supporting India. But US is one of those who made the rule that non-NPT countries should not join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing.
"The relevant rule was made on the principle that NPT was the cornerstone of the NSG," she said. Hua made the remarks in response to a question on US asking members of the nuclear trading club to support India's application.
Later talking to Indian media, Hua said while discussions are going on among the NSG members, the admission of new members is not listed in the current plenary meeting in Seoul. "The door is open. The room is there. We never said we are against who (a country). We did not target any country, India or Pakistan," Hua said.
China for its part cares about non-proliferation treaty (NPT) as criteria for admission of the new members into the NSG, she said. "This is the core of the international non-proliferation. If the non-proliferation regime is changed how can we explain the Iranian nuclear treaty," Hua argued.
"We just had a treaty with Iran. We have North Korean issues there...So this concerns the core issue whether NPT and non proliferation system could be impacted by this," she said. Reiterating what she said yesterday, Hua stated that, "According to my understanding, it (entry of new members) is not on the agenda of the NSG meeting in Seoul."
"The door is open for the admission of the non-NPT members. It is never closed. It is open. But the members of the NSG should stay focussed on whether the criteria should be changed and whether non-NPT members should be admitted into the NSG," she said.
On US' backing for India's NSG bid, Hua said, "We care about rules. US just sets the rules. This is not an issue between China and India but (about) the pillar for non-proliferation system," she said. Amid China's opposition, the US has given a fresh push to India's NSG membership bid by asking members of the elite club to support India's entry into the grouping during the ongoing plenary meeting in Seoul.
"We believe, and this has been US policy for some time, that India is ready for membership and the United States calls on participating governments to support India's application at the plenary session of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
"At the same time, participating governments will need to reach a consensus decision in order to admit any applicant into the group and the United States will certainly be advocating for India's membership," Earnest said as the 5-day annual plenary session of the 48-member club began in the South Korean capital yesterday.
While majority of the elite group members backed India's membership, it is understood that apart from China, countries like Turkey, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand were not in favour of India's entry into the NSG.
China maintains opposition to India's entry, arguing that it has not signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, it has been batting for its close ally Pakistan's entry if NSG extends any exemption for India.
Pakistan applied for NSG membership, a week after India submitted its membership application. India has asserted that being a signatory to the NPT was not essential for joining the NSG as there has been a precedent in this regard, citing the case of France.
India is seeking membership of NSG to enable it to trade in and export nuclear technology. The access to the NSG, which regulates the global trade of nuclear technology, is expected to open up the international market for energy-starved India, which has an ambitious energy generation programme. India is looking at 63,000 MW energy requirement through the nuclear programme by 2030.
The NSG looks after critical issues relating to nuclear sector and its members are allowed to trade in and export nuclear technology. Membership of the grouping will help India significantly expand its atomic energy sector.
India has been reaching out to NSG member countries seeking support for its entry. The NSG works under the principle of consensus and even one country's vote against India will scuttle its bid.