Foreign Secretary makes unannounced visit to China on NSG issue

China has been leading a group of countries of the 48-member NSG that are holding out against giving India membership.

June 19, 2016 11:14 am | Updated November 17, 2021 05:09 am IST - Beijing

India’s diplomatic push to get China’s support for its membership to the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), ahead of a crucial meeting next week of the club in Seoul, has accelerated with the visit of Foreign Secretary, S.Jaishankar to Beijing last week.

Diplomatic sources confirmed that Mr. Jaishankar had visited the Chinese capital on June 16-17. In New Delhi, foreign office spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the foreign secretary discussed all major issues, including India’s membership to the NSG during his visit to Beijing.

The sources said that considerable diplomatic heavy lifting has now been done with China, setting the stage for a crucial meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the two day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Tashkent that begins on Thursday. But whether this results in a breakthrough or starts a “constructive process”, however, remains unclear. The two leaders are also later expected to meet in Goa at the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) in October.

>China has been unwilling to make an exception for India’s membership , preferring instead a consensus based decision for admitting new members, which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to the 48 member NSG,.

Analysts say that >China is pursuing a hyphenated approach, linking simultaneous inclusion of India and Pakistan — both non-NPT signatories and nuclear weapon powers — to the exclusive club.

Chinese academics, in the state media, have signaled that India’s inclusion alone in the NSG — the body that controls the flow of nuclear technology and material among its members — can trigger a retaliatory nuclear escalation by Pakistan, undermining non-proliferation efforts.

“Once New Delhi gets the membership first, the >nuclear balance between India and Pakistan will be broken . As a result, Pakistan's strategic interests will be threatened, which will in turn shake the strategic balance in South Asia, and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region,” observed an op-ed in the state-run Global Times.

Second, the article in the daily by Fu Xiaoqiang of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that >India’s NSG membership, backed by the United States , had geopolitical overtones, related to the containment of China’s rise. “The US recognised New Delhi as a ‘major defence partner’ during (Prime Minister) Modi's recent visit (to Washington). It means that the White House has given India the treatment as a US military ally. Over the years, the US has been bending the rules to back India's nuclear projects. Against the backdrop of Washington's accelerated pace of promoting its pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, it will be highly likely to keep supporting New Delhi's nuclear ambitions, in order to make it a stronger power to contain China.”

He added at that if “India promises to comply with stipulations over the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons while sticking to its policy of independence and self-reliance, China could support New Delhi's path toward the club”.

Chinese officials, who did not wish to be quoted caution, that despite belonging to official People’s Daily flagship, the op-eds in the Global Times do not necessarily voice the official view of the Chinese government, but are often deployed as a “sounding board” to generate a debate on a controversial issue.

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