China on Tuesday said it was not against India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the “door is open” for discussions over admitting non-NPT countries in the elite grouping.
Beijing’s statement comes a day after it said the NSG was divided over admitting India and the issue would not figure in the agenda of the NSG plenary in Seoul this week. The US has appealed to the member countries of the 48-member bloc to support India’s bid for membership.
Beijing maintained that it was the US which laid down the rules of non-signatory countries of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) not being allowed membership of the bloc.
“The door is still open. There is always room for discussion,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.
“We never said we are against (any country). We did not target any country, India or Pakistan,” Hua said in a media briefing.
Responding to US’ backing India for membership of the global nuclear trade regulator, Hua said: “I have not seen the US statement supporting India. But US is one of those who made the rule that non-NPT countries should not join the NSG.”
Hua said that NPT was the “cornerstone” over admitting countries into the NSG.
She said it was up to the NSG members to decide whether rules for entry into the group needed to be changed.
Her remarks come as the NSG is to hold an important plenary June 23-24 in Seoul when the membership application of India, along with Pakistan, are likely to be taken up.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also likely to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) when the issue is likely to be discussed.
The Chinese spokesperson’s statement on Tuesday is at variance with her remarks a day ago, when she said that NSG members were still divided over admitting India and it was not right to talk about the issue now.
She had also ruled out the inclusion of the issue of admission of non-NPT members — mainly India and Pakistan — being taken up at the Seoul meet.
“The inclusion of non-NPT members has never been a topic on the agenda of NPT meetings. In Seoul this year, there is no such topic,” Hua had said.
The US, which has strongly backed India for membership to the grouping, said that it continues to urge member countries to back New Delhi’s application.
US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in Washington that the US reaffirms that India was ready for membership to the NSG.
“We continue to call on the participating governments of the NSG to support India’s application at the plenary session in Seoul,” he said.
“India’s application is something we have routinely talked to other NSG participating members,” he added.
China has been opposed to India’s membership on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the NPT. Beijing has also said if New Delhi is admitted, then so should its all-weather ally Islamabad be given admission.
Consensus among all member countries is essential to allow a new entrant.