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Facing off against China in Seoul, will India secure NSG membership?

Source: PTI
Last updated on: June 22, 2016 18:54 IST
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Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar rushed to Seoul ahead of the crucial plenary meet even as China said that India’s bid was not on the agenda.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Wednesday headed for Seoul ahead of the crucial Nuclear Suppliers Group Plenary from Thursday, where India is hoping to clinch membership, which is being strongly opposed by China and some other countries.

Jaishankhar, who was closely monitoring the goings-on during the officials’ level meet of the 48-nation grouping which started on Monday, left for the South Korean capital to lobby with members to boost India’s prospects of getting membership.

Senior external affairs ministry official Amandeep Singh Gill, in-charge of ‘Disarmament & International Security’ division, is already in Seoul to “garner” support as well as “explain” India’s case, sources said.

However, China continues to stonewall India’s bid for NSG membership with the members divided over the entry of a non-NPT signatory country like India.

The NSG works under the principle of unanimity and even one country’s vote against India will scuttle its bid.

While majority of the elite group members backed India’s membership, it is understood that apart from China, countries like Turkey, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand were not in favour of India’s entry into the NSG.

China maintains opposition to India’s entry, arguing that it has not signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, it has been batting for its close ally Pakistan’s entry if NSG extends any exemption for India.

India has asserted that being a signatory to the NPT was not essential for joining the NSG as there has been a precedent in this regard, citing the case of France.

India is seeking membership of NSG to enable it to trade in and export nuclear technology.

The access to the NSG, which regulates the global trade of nuclear technology, is expected to open up the international market for energy-starved India, which has an ambitious energy generation programme. India is looking at 63,000 MW energy requirement through nuclear programme by 2030.

The NSG looks after critical issues relating to nuclear sector and its members are allowed to trade in and export nuclear technology. Membership of the grouping will help India significantly expand its atomic energy sector.

Meanwhile, in an apparent climb down, China said it will play a “constructive” role in the discussions on India’s bid for membership of the 48-member NSG but at the same maintained that the issue was not on the agenda of the NSG meeting in Seoul.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that NSG members had three rounds of unofficial discussions on the entry of India and Pakistan into the grouping.

“China hopes to discuss further this issue and will play a constructive role in the discussions,” she said.

“Although parties are yet to see eye-to-eye on this issue, such discussions help them better understand each other,” she said.

At the same time, Hua said the entry of India and Pakistan is not on the agenda of the NSG grouping’s meeting in Seoul.

“Deliberation on the entry of specific countries is on the agenda of the Seoul Plenary meeting. However, it is worth noting that the NSG Plenary meeting in Seoul is only to deliberate on the entry of members who signed the NPT,” she said.

“As for the entry of non-NPT countries, the group has never put that on its meeting agenda. Based on what we have at hand, the agenda of this year’s Seoul Plenary Meeting circulated by the Chair does not include this issue either,” she said.

China on Tuesday said the “door is open” for discussions on the issue but then emphasised on whether criteria for memberships should be changed instead of making exceptions. In other words, China is seeking to equate India with its impeccable non-proliferation record with that of Pakistan for which it is batting.

The US, which has been supporting India’s NSG bid, has said New Delhi is “ready” for NSG membership and asked participating governments to support its application at the plenary session of NSG in Seoul.

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