India is optimistic that China will not block its bid for membership of the Nuclear Supplier Group, the 48 countries controlling nuclear commerce and sensitive technology. With the backing of the United States, India has been lobbying hard before a key meeting in Seoul on June 23 to gain entry into the elite club.
In recent weeks, New Delhi has overcome resistance from several countries such as Mexico and Switzerland, but Beijing is on the frontline of a tiny group of countries that continue to express reservations about opening the NSG’s doors to India because it has not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Talking to reporters on Sunday, India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj appeared confident of overcoming Chinese resistance. “We are hopeful that we will be successful in getting China’s support,” she said.
Swaraj told reporters that China is not opposing India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, but that it has raised objections relating to criteria and processes. “In India’s case, instead of criteria, its credentials should be taken into account,” she said.
India’s top diplomat conveyed that message to China during an unexpected visit Saturday to woo Beijing.
China has said that "large differences" remain over the issue of countries that have not signed the NPT joining the NSG.
But an optimistic Swaraj expressed hope that “consensus is being built and maybe no country will break this consensus and we will get membership of NSG.”
Although New Delhi has not signed the NPT, it has committed to some controls on its nuclear program under a 2008 deal with the United States. That deal effectively ended the isolation imposed on India since a 1998 nuclear test and gave it access to nuclear fuel and technology.
Analysts say India’s dream of getting membership of the elite club is more about gaining a seat at the nuclear high table as it seeks to raise its global profile than any actual benefits. They point out that New Delhi already has deals with more than eight countries either for supplies of uranium or for building power plants.
Opponents say giving India membership will undermine efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, which the NSG aims to do by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make arms. It will also infuriate arch-rival Pakistan, which has also made a bid for membership of the NSG.
Asked whether China was linking India's membership of the nuclear group with that of Pakistan, Swaraj said that each country's membership should be decided on merit.