India confident of consensus around NSG bid, hopeful of convincing China: Swaraj

An international consensus is building around India’s bid for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday, sounding confident of India’s bid that will come up for discussion at the NSG plenary on June 23rd in Seoul. According to Ms. Swaraj, the government is “hopeful of success in convincing China” by then, indicating that China would not wish to go against the consensus built.

“I think a consensus is being made, and I don’t think any country will break that consensus, and this time we will get the NSG membership,” Ms. Swaraj told reporters at the MEA’s annual press conference, adding that she had personally spoken to 23 of the 48 countries in the NSG. By rule, decisions on memberships and other issues in the body that regulates nuclear trade have to be taken by consensus amongst all members. The Minister’s words are especially significant as they come hours after the MEA announced that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar returned from a visit to Beijing, which was kept under wraps. “All major issues, including India’s NSG membership, were discussed,” the MEA spokesperson said about the visit on June 16-17.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing told The Hindu 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 June 22. But whether this results in a breakthrough or starts a “constructive process”, remains unclear the sources said.

China has said publicly that it wants the NSG to agree on a process or “criteria” for members, indicating that Pakistan must benefit from any flexibility given to India, given that neither country has signed the Non Proliferation treaty (NPT).

“China is not opposing India’s NSG membership,” Ms. Swaraj declared, in the first such public statement from New Delhi, “China is speaking of the process for membership.” She also said that India does not oppose Pakistan or any other country’s membership, “but want each to be judged on their own merit”, in a reference to Pakistan’s involvement in illicit nuclear trade with North Korea and other countries.

“Instead of speaking about a criteria, one should speak about our credentials. Our track record should be discussed. I have great satisfaction in saying that whatever commitments and undertakings we gave prior to receiving the (NSG) waiver in 2008, we have kept,” Ms. Swaraj said.

In the final stretch before the NSG meeting beginning on Friday, India has visibly ramped up its outreach to various countries who will vote, and can influence others. In particular, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S., Mexico and Switzerland, as well as his telephone call to President Vladimir Putin, with a view to securing Russia’s open support as well as its ability to bring countries like Kazakhstan, that are still holding out, on board. Turkey, Austria, Ireland are among some of the other hold-outs, but those are expected to join a consensus if China softens its stand. All eyes, for now, remain fixed on the meeting between Mr. Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping this week in Tashkent. The two leaders will host each other later this year as well, during the G-20 to be held in Hangzhou in September and the BRICS summit in Goa in October this year.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 9:07:56 AM |

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