Dashing hopes that China would support India’s bid to become a member of the nuclear suppliers group (NSG), Chinese President Xi Jinping bracketed India’s aspiration to become a member of the elite group of 48 countries to that of Pakistan’s in his recent meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Ufa.
Members of the NSG deal with the export and re-transfer of nuclear and nuclear-related materials and its members vow a strong commitment to non-proliferation measures.
A joint statement issued during Modi’s visit to China in May had, for the first time, mentioned that Beijing had taken note of India’s NSG aspirations. “The Chinese side took note of India’s aspirations to become a member of the NSG, in a bid to strengthen international non-proliferation efforts,” the joint statement said. This was a welcome change from the known Chinese position on the issue.
However, according to various official accounts, Xi responded in a “non-committed fashion” when Modi broached the issue during their nearly 90-minute-long meeting at Ufa. Xi is said to have told Modi that “Pakistan is also in talks with us”.
Beijing has a fledging nuclear cooperation with Pakistan with the help of the ‘grandfather clause’, which refers to refers to the agreement to construct two nuclear reactors in Pakistan before China joined the NSG in 2004.
Xi’s response indicates that a breakthrough on the issue as hoped by India is unlikely for now. Also, any bracketing with Pakistan in terms of non-proliferation track-records is something New Delhi finds difficult to digest.
An official said that negotiations of this kind usually take time. “The joint statement in May was a breakthrough with regard to the NSG membership issue. This issue needs negotiations that are often protracted.”
At the meeting, Modi appreciated the fact that border incursions have come down by 50% in the past year compared to the year before. He, however, brought to President Xi’s notice to an ‘increase’ in incursions in Depsang bulge in Daulat Beg Oldi sector, home to India’s strategically-significant and northernmost military post.
President Xi was also non-committal on the resolution of the issue of China granting stapled visas to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh that has enraged New Delhi in the past, saying ‘officials are looking at it’.