'India’s membership was not taken up'

Lead negotiator and Director-General of the Arms Control division at the Chinese foreign ministry Wang Qun speaks to Diplomatic Editor Suhasini Haidar

June 24, 2016 12:05 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:02 pm IST - Seoul

China denies blocking India’s membership bid at the NSG, repeatedly asserting that India’s case did not come up specifically as the question of its signature to the Non Proliferation Treaty needs to be resolved first.

Speaking to Diplomatic Editor Suhasini Haidar outside the NSG conference venue in Seoul, lead negotiator and Director-General of the Arms Control division at the Chinese foreign ministry Wang Qun claimed “dozens of members” of the 48-member group support China’s position.

Why does China stand opposed to India’s membership, when so many countries have supported it?

There is no question of opposing or supporting India’s membership. To discuss something on the agenda is one thing, some “irrelevant remarks” may be made. Despite the fact that India’s membership was not on the agenda, people are concerned and China too attaches great importance to the membership applications of NPT states for members at the NSG including India and Pakistan. China has worked hard to make this a topic for discussion on how to deal with such countries.

But a special session was held, discussing the inclusion of non-NPT members. Now only two India and Pakistan have applied, and only one whose membership has been backed by multiple members that is India….

Well, India was not a specific agenda item, though the discussion you refer was held with the caveat that there can always be interventions or comments made by any member. Country specific memberships is not discussed normally. Even so, since members including China attach great importance to India’s membership application, so we asked for an exercise to discuss the “political legal and technical” aspects of participation by countries of non-NPT states.

Is China isolated? More than 30 countries of the NSG have come out in support of India, we have seen the leaders of Switzerland, Mexico, US,UK, France say publicly that India’s membership application should be accepted.

No, China is not isolated. Firstly, India’s membership was not taken up. Also on the question of how to deal with Non-NPT states, the group is divided, and far apart, and there are many including some countries you mentioned , I do not want to name them because of confidentiality rules at NSG, but their public statements are not what the Indian media said they were. They appreciated the efforts India has made for the NSG but in the meantime hoped that its membership could be considered within the framework of the NPT. In fact, the NPT is really an issue, because for admission the NSG has five criteria for members, most noticeably the NPT, it is a must. This is not a rule set by China, this is the rule set by the NSG and reaffirmed by the international community.

Are you saying that there is consensus in NSG members that NPT is a precondition to membership? How many support that?

Well yes, there is broad consensus on the criteria for NSG membership, and NPT is among them. Starting from the year 2000, the NPT is a necessary criterio.

PM Modi spoke to President Xi Jinping in Tashkent, calling for China to make a fair assessment of India’s merit. Despite that, there seems to be no shift in China’s stand. Should India give up hopes, or may this be reconsidered in the near future?

I think India is making great efforts, and China has taken positive note of India’s non-proliferation efforts. So have other countries like Pakistan, though to a different degree. So we see India’s case as a close friend and near neighbour.

Pakistan is a known proliferator of illicit nuclear trade including to Iran Libya North Korea. Don’t you think it is unfair to consider India and Pakistan in the same category?

They are in the same category of non-NPT state parties. This is based on the fact they haven’t signed the non proliferation treaty. This is a fact of life and no one can deny it.

Do you think China’s stand at the NSG will affect bilateral ties with India? Is that not a concern?

China has tried to positively support the discussion that may eventually lead to India’s membership at the NSG at some stage. I think not only China but dozens of countries share China’s view that we need to discuss how we can go forward, how can we deal with non-NPT states as a whole. In the first place, a decision needs to be taken within the group, and then we can come to India’s case.

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