The U.S. will push for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group when the issue is taken up later this year at the “highest levels”, U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma said.
In comments exclusively to The Hindu , ahead of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s arrival in Delhi, which coincides with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to Washington on Monday, Mr. Verma said, “We were disappointed in [the NSG decision in June 2016], but will continue to work constructively with India and all NSG members on India’s accession in the months ahead.”
“We have pushed strongly on this issue with NSG members at the highest levels of our government,” he added.
The Obama administration will hold its last round of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) with India on Tuesday, when Mr. Kerry and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will meet with their counterparts Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman in Delhi.
Officials on both sides confirmed to The Hindu that the NSG membership issue will be discussed, including the hope within the government that the U.S. will take up India’s case at the “highest levels”, i.e. between President Obama and President Xi, possibly during their upcoming meeting at G-20 next week.
In 2008, former President George Bush’s phone call to former Chinese President Hu Jintao swung a waiver from the NSG in India’s favour.
Responding to a question from The Hindu on whether the U.S. hadn’t done the “heavy lifting” required, Mr. Verma rejected the concerns, saying, “I can reassure you we will continue high-level engagement in support of India’s membership.”
Diplomatic efforts needed Other former U.S. officials have also hinted that Indian diplomacy, not Mr. Obama’s intervention was needed to bring a shift in China’s stand, that India sign the Non proliferation treaty to join the NSG.
Indicating that China’s tough position on the South China Sea and the Indo-U.S. ‘Joint vision for the Asia Pacific’ will also be discussed during the S&CD meet, Mr. Verma said the talks would “continue to focus on U.S.-India initiatives that bolster the security of our global commons and help reinforce the rules-based international order.”
Asked if announcements during Mr. Kerry’s visit to Delhi would be significant, given that the Obama administration is drawing to a close, or “lame duck” period, Mr. Verma said, “This will be the last Strategic and Commercial Dialogue of the Obama Administration, and locks in the exceptional progress made in our bilateral relationship over the past eight years. It also places our relations on a solid footing to aim ever higher in the next Administration.”