Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to contribute to the “emerging consensus” in Seoul, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was unable to arrive at a consensus in the South Korean capital during a late-night session to discuss the Indian application for membership.
At least seven countries — China, Brazil, Switzerland, Turkey, Austria, Ireland and New Zealand — were learnt to have raised questions, mostly pertaining to the entry of non-NPT countries into the elite club.
The discussions will continue Friday. Some of these countries have conveyed to the Indian side that they need to consult their governments before arriving at a final decision.
While some officials spoke of referring the matter to a “technical group or a panel” or taking it up separately at a special plenary later this year, New Delhi, backed by the United States, is learnt to have stressed on a decision on “immediate membership” and not look for “second-best options”.
Major founding members of the NSG, including UK, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and Canada, supported India’s bid during the meeting, citing its adherence to NSG guidelines since 2008.
A major part of the meeting between Modi and Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tashkent, which lasted about 45 minutes Thursday afternoon, was devoted to the issue of India’s NSG membership, Indian officials said.
After the bilateral meeting, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “PM Modi urged China to make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application and judge it on its own merit. He said China should contribute to the emerging consensus in Seoul.”
The fact that Modi asked the Chinese President to consider India’s application on “its own merit” meant that New Delhi was asking Beijing to delink itself from Pakistan’s application. India applied on May 12 and Pakistan’s application was submitted soon after.
China has been pressing for clubbing both applications, saying they are not NPT signatories. India has been pointing to “credentials” and not criteria. In any case, signing of NPT is not a mandatory criterion to become an NSG member, officials said.
There was no official word from the Chinese President’s delegation about Xi’s response to the Indian Prime Minister’s request.
However, by late night, at least six countries, apart from China, raised certain questions at the NSG Plenary in Seoul.
China is leading the opposition with its delegation insisting on the “criteria-based process” for accepting any new member – a reference to NPT. They have cited Namibia’s case which can enter the NSG in this year’s plenary straightaway since it is a NPT signatory.
Three countries with a strong anti-nuclear posture – Austria, Ireland and New Zealand — are at the forefront of raising questions on India’s membership of NSG citing “process issues”, at least three diplomats tracking the ongoing negotiations in Seoul told The Indian Express.
Turkey, a diplomat said, has openly asked for both Indian and Pakistan applications to be considered together.
What has surprised many are reservations expressed by Brazil and Switzerland. While Brazil has come out questioning India’s application for the first time — although India shares a good rapport through
BRICS and IBSA groupings — Switzerland, which had announced support during Modi’s visit early this month, has called for an””objective criteri”” before allowing new members. This nuanced position by Switzerland is being seen as a delaying tactic by Indian officials.
However, positions may evolve over the next 12 to 24 hours as Indian officials are working the phones. According to Indian government sources, there is””consensus minus on”” – China is the only country blocking consensus.
In Seoul, negotiators of the 48-country elite grouping assembled for a special session post-dinner to discuss India’s membership application. Indian officials, led by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, were also present at Hotel Shilla where officials from the 48 countries were meeting.
A European diplomat told The Indian Express that India fulfils the requirements and its case was””soli””.””More than 30 countries had supported the Indian case at the meeting held on June 9… there is an overwhelming support for India’s candidature to become a member”” he said.
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