LESS than 72 hours after celebrating the Prime Minister’s address to the US Congress in which he called the US an “indispensable partner”, the Modi government is cautiously signalling that the warmth in Washington doesn’t necessarily mean a chill in Beijing.
In fact, a top source in the government said that hammering the point that China is blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group — as is being done in certain quarters — could be counter-productive. Especially at a time when New Delhi is trying to invest in multiple relationships with other powerful nations while getting closer to the US.
In view of the ongoing NSG plenary in Vienna, the government source spelled out why China should not be “demonized.”
India does not have a zero sum game with China, the source said, and the manner in which the two countries are engaged doesn’t show any intent of confrontation.
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While reacting to the question on the absence of mention of South China Sea in the Indo-US joint statement issued on June 7, unlike some previous statements, the source said that each joint statement is an independent document and India has taken care not to refer to the maritime dispute because it doesn’t serve any Indian interest to “polarise issues” with China.
Interestingly, the source said, no one at the official level in the Chinese leadership has told India that they are opposing its entry into NSG.
There is a kind of ambiguity — a grey area — so far which is read by India as a “somewhat positive” sign. Of course, this doesn’t mean that China is supporting India’s entry into NSG, the source said, but New Delhi believes that Beijing hasn’t slammed the door yet.
Underlining the necessity of India getting into the NSG, the source said India will soon become a player in the global nuclear trade and so it’s better to be part of the formal system.
On the Paris climate change agreement, India is likely to take its own time, the source said.
The India-US joint statement had said: “The United States reaffirms its commitment to join the Agreement as soon as possible this year. India similarly has begun its processes to work toward this shared objective.”
However, domestic compulsions are such, the source said, that this is easier said than done.
For, it entails significant reworking of Indian laws like the Motor Vehicles Act, Electricity act and several environment-related acts besides calculating the loss due to slowing down of certain projects that add to emissions.
Asked to clarify what PM Modi meant by the US being India’s “indispensable partner,” the source said that it should be read in context in which it was said in his speech. US co-operation is indispensable in “the to-do list of things” like setting up smart cities or connecting villages with the digital world.
Asked to explain why US called India a “major defence partner,” the official said this was part of a “new phraseology” that the US has developed and it is likely that to suit the Make in India programme of the Modi government, there could be a system linked to a unique licensing regime.