Coinciding with the crucial plenary session of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on June 23 and 24 in Seoul, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. This meeting, sources said, could hold the key to Chinese approval for the consensus at Seoul.
Ahead of the plenary session, speaking to The Indian Express, Indian negotiators sought to de-link India’s membership bid to NSG and China’s possible entry to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The discussions on India’s membership will start at the expert-level meeting on June 21-22, which will precede the plenary session, sources said.
Top government sources told The Indian Express that any link between NSG and MTCR could be “counterproductive” for India’s NSG membership bid. “India is not a part of MTCR … there are processes to be followed for its imminent entry. So, at this stage, India cannot agree on a quid pro quo with China on its intention to join MTCR,” a source said.
China has been trying to become a member of MTCR for more than a decade now. Its application in 2004 was rejected following allegations that it was passing on its missile technology to North Korea. There has been some talk about India not blocking China’s entry if Beijing goes along with the NSG consensus.
Sources said the meeting between Modi and Xi is likely to take place on June 23. Modi is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin the same day. Russia too is making efforts to bring the Chinese on board to support India’s membership bid.
This will also be the first meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after India and Pakistan were accepted as full members last July in Ufa — an elevation from the observer status.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in reply to a question that admission of countries, who were yet to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including India, was not on the agenda of the Seoul conference. “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 said, adding that “NSG is still divided about non-NPT countries’ entry into the NSG”.
“We understand that non-NPT countries are very concerned… but since the NSG is still divided on this issue, it is still not mature to talk about the entry issue at the annual conference in Seoul,” she said.
Contrary to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s optimistic tone Sunday, Hua said the “NSG should discuss the entry issue of non-NPT countries as a whole instead of specific non-NPT countries joining”.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the “issue of India’s membership to the NSG is coming up at the plenary meeting of the group”. He, however, cautioned the media not to indulge in “needless speculation” and await “factual developments”.