Swiss support India’s NSG bid

But leave the door open for Pak. too

June 09, 2017 11:33 pm | Updated 11:33 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Switzerland, the incoming chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), will support application for membership, but has left the door open for Pakistan to join as well. India, meanwhile, appears to be mulling its options over how strongly to pitch its case at the nuclear club.

“We are of the view that it would contribute to strengthening global non-proliferation efforts if all countries having relevant nuclear technology and being suppliers of such technology were to become NSG members,” Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesperson Pierre-Alain Eltschinger told The Hindu in exclusive remarks ahead of the NSG’s annual plenary session in Bern on June 19.

‘Grossi process’

Without referring directly to the “Grossi process”, Mr. Eltschinger said Switzerland would take up the issue once it took over as Chair. The “Grossi process” mandates the former NSG chairperson and diplomat Rafael Grossi to build a consensus among all 48 countries of the NSG, many of which resisted India’s membership bid at the Seoul plenary session in 2016, unless the country signs the Non-Proliferation Treaty,

“Switzerland’s national position on India’s application to the Nuclear Suppliers Group remains unchanged,” the Swiss spokesperson said. “We support India’s application for participation in the NSG and acknowledge India’s support to global non-proliferation efforts. [As Chair], Switzerland will take into account the views of all participating governments and seek to guide the Group towards reaching consensus on the question of how to integrate non-NPT-States,” Mr. Eltschinger said in his written replies to specific questions, promising that Switzerland would handle the question in a “neutral, transparent and inclusive manner”.

Despite the supportive Swiss position, announced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the then President, Johann Schneider-Amman, in June 2016, India is yet to hold talks with officials at the NSG to push ahead with its membership this year, said a senior official of the nuclear body.

No clarity

Speaking to The Hindu on the phone, a senior diplomat involved with the NSG said that unlike last year, where India had vigorously pushed its candidacy for months, and intensified efforts in May 2016, this year, the External Affairs Ministry and officials concerned had not clarified their plans.

“India has yet to contact us with its plans ahead of the session, so we don’t know what New Delhi wants at present,” said the official who asked not be identified, given the secrecy the NSG mandates on internal discussions. Referring to the strain in India-China ties, over the Belt & Road initiative, China’ refusal to block Masood Azhar at the U.N. Security Council, and other issues including the NSG itself, the official said the NSG which works by consensus, could get log-jammed again.

“There is a certain rigidity in China’s posture, and it isn’t helped by the fact that instead of improving, India-China ties seem to have gone in the opposite direction.”

Despite Mr. Modi’s “positive and cordial” talks with President Xi at the SCO summit on Friday, there was no official statement on a change in China’s position.

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