India, China Trade Barbs Over NSG

Membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group not for the US to gift, says China as India insists it has earned its place.

New Delhi: In a response to China’s statement that membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group can’t be a awarded to India as a farewell gift by the outgoing Obama administration in the United States, New Delhi said on Thursday that the country sought entrance into the NSG only on the basis of its non-proliferation record.

“India is not seeking NSG membership as a gift.  India is seeking it on its non-proliferation record,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters on Thursday. “I of course cannot speak for other applicants,” he added, in a snarky retort which plays up the Indian view that China has been blocking India’s application based on its support for Pakistan.

The Chinese statement had been triggered by the remarks of the outgoing US administration’s assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, where she specifically named China as the only country which was blocking efforts to bring India into the fold. “Clearly there is one outlier that needs to be addressed and that is China,” she said.

On Jan 16, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying replied, “It is worth pointing out that the NSG membership is not something to be given privately between countries as a farewell gift”.

Last year on the eve of the NSG plenary in Seoul, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to make a personal appeal to change Beijing’s position at Tashkent in July 2016. There was no adjustment to China’s stance. Rather, the Chinese representative at NSG was the only delegate to give separate press remarks which articulated Beijing’s opposition to India’s entrance.

These stock phrases have been repeated several times, latest by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Wednesday.

“India’s application to join the NSG is an issue concerning the sanctity of the international non-proliferation regime with NPT as a bedrock, on which China takes a fairly responsible attitude. We call for a two-step approach that starts with a non-discriminatory solution applicable to all non-NPT countries followed by case-by-case discussions on the applications of non-NPT countries,” said spokesperson Hua. She was responding to Modi’s speech on January 17, in which he said that India and China should take more care of each other’s core concerns and sensitivities.

After the NSG plenary in July, Argentine ambassador to IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi had held consultations with all the participating governments of the group to find a way to deal with the applications of non-NPT applicants – like India, and Pakistan.

In December, Grossi circulated a draft proposal which listed nine ‘general commitments’ that non-NPT applicants would have to undertake in order to qualify to join NSG. This included a condition that the membership will be contingent on a “commitment not to conduct a nuclear test”.