Discussion was stuck on question of signing NPT, Pakistan “not even discussed”
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) annual plenary session in Seoul ended on Friday without making any significant movement on India’s membership application.
China’s lead negotiator told journalists that the meeting had not discussed India’s membership specifically as the NSG consensus was “divided and far apart“ on the issue of admitting members who have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“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,” Mr. Wang Qun told journalists on Friday, after NSG members reconvened on Friday to discuss the membership question that had kept them in talks till past midnight on Thursday.
However, Indian officials rejected the Chinese contention that India’s membership had not been brought on the agenda. “This was not some hypothetical discussion. There are only two applicants from non-NPT states this year, and only one of them, India’s case has been raised by many members,” said a senior government source. Several diplomats privy to the discussions also confirmed that the other applicant, Pakistan, “was not even discussed.”
Mr. Wang denied reports that China had been isolated on the issue that effectively keeps India out of the NSG for the present , saying that “several countries” raised concerns during the special session.
“No China is not isolated,” Mr. Wang told The Hindu, “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.”
Indian officials claimed the support of at least 32 nations of the 48-member NSG during the discussion of membership, but several nations that had been expected to give their outright support did not do so during deliberations. Sources say, in the biggest shock to Indian efforts were the strong positions taken by Brazil and Switzerland, despite the support they had assured India during diplomatic parleys.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even visited Switzerland this month, where India had been assured support, but during the negotiations, Switzerland is understood to have clarified that the larger issue of NPT adherence must be considered.
Brazil too, spoke about the need for a “non-discriminatory criteria based process” for admitting non-NPT members, sources said, even as Ireland, Austria, New Zealand demanded that no members could be considered until the NPT question was resolved. However diplomats confirmed that at in its opening statement, Brazil had supported India’s membership given its strong credentials.
India’s hopes now remain on ensuring that the NSG closing statement records its membership application and sets the course for its consideration in the near future, which would reflect the intense diplomatic efforts the government have taken in the past few weeks.
A day earlier, diplomatic twists and turns were in constant play over India’s hopes for a membership of NSG, and finally it ended stuck over the question of the nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT), even as the much-anticipated bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in Tashkent ended without a statement of support from China.
A source privy to the closed door consultations of Thursday told The Hindu that although the membership application from India was now specifically on the agenda of the meeting, “deliberations have not moved beyond the NPT question, and we are yet to discuss India’s case specifically.”
Modi, Xi Jinping meeting
The NSG members broke at about 6 p.m. on Thursday, agreeing to reconvene post-dinner at 9 p.m. The development raised hopes for Indian diplomats and the team in Seoul led by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, even as they waited for a positive message from the meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Tashkent. However, while India stated its case to China, there was no return statement from the Chinese government on its stand.
“Prime Minister Modi urged China to make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application and judge it on its own merits. He said that China should contribute to the emerging consensus in Seoul,” MEA spokesperson said, describing the meeting that went on for about 45 minutes and dwelt largely on the NSG question.
Shortly after, the Special session began in Seoul, and even though India had received vocal support in intervention from at least 32 countries during the day, including US, Japan, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Hungary, and host South Korea, it became equally clear that several countries were holding out on the question of how to proceed forward for all Non-NPT countries, without making a special exception for India.
Keywords: NSG, Seoul, Team India, China, NSG plenary session
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