China has claimed that several members of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are against India’s bid for a membership of the 48-nation body that is concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.

As China has been trying hard to block India’s NSG membership bid for the past few years, Beijing’s claim comes as no surprise for New Delhi. This time, senior spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Lu Kang has openly defended Beijing’s move, saying that the Asian giant will not allow India to enter into the Group. He argued that it is necessary for every country to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) before becoming a member of the Group and the same rule will be applicable to India. Lu also said that majority of the 48-nation bloc believes that signing of the NPT is an “important” standard for expansion of the NSG.

According to the senior Chinese official, it is unfortunate that India wants to become a NSG member, despite recognising the global consensus that the Group is an important part of NPT. Asked whether China will push Pakistan’s entry into the NSG, Lu said that it is a different issue, which should not be linked to India’s admission into the bloc. He once again urged the international community not to forget that NPT is the cornerstone for safeguarding the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. “All the multilateral non-proliferation export control regime, including the NSG, has regarded NPT as an important standard for the expansion of the NSG. Apart from India, lot of other countries expressed their willingness to join. Then, it raised the question to the international community – shall the non-NPT members also become part of the NSG?” asked Lu. He stressed: “The international community believes that there should be a side discussion in the NSG on this issue and decision should be made in accordance with relevant rules. China’s position is not directed against any specific country, but applies to all the non-NPT members.”

Interestingly, China openly opposed India’s NSG membership bid just a month after Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser (on Foreign Affairs) of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told the media that Beijing was ready to help Islamabad stall New Delhi’s bid to get NSG membership.

Meanwhile, the US countered China’s stand that signing of the NPT is an important criterion, citing President Barrack Obama’s endorsement in 2015 that India meets “missile technology control regime requirements and is ready for membership” to the NSG. US State Department spokesperson John Kirby slammed both China and Pakistan for opposing India’s candidature for the bloc, saying that Beijing’s role in blocking New Delhi’s efforts to become a NSG member became apparent during the NSG Consultative Group’s meeting on April 25-26. When India requested a session with NSG participating governments at the meeting to make a formal presentation in support of its membership, Pakistan too sought a similar opportunity. Kirby expressed disappointment at China’s “either both or none” strategy, saying: “Deliberations about of new members joining the NSG are an internal matter among current members.”

India, which is well aware of China’s intention, has made no immediate comment on Lu’s statement. New Delhi has already taken some additional steps to demonstrate its commitment to non-proliferation in order to build support in the NSG that operates by consensus. The Narendra Modi administration believes that India has fulfilled the commitments it agreed to in exchange for the Indo-US deal that ended the nuclear trade prohibition. India officially implemented a separation plan by placing 14 civilian nuclear power reactors under IAEA safeguards and leaving only eight military reactors outside of safeguards. The South Asian powerhouse also sustained its unilateral halt on testing nuclear explosives and ratified a protocol (in June 2014) that expanded the IAEA’s access to its nuclear sites.

So far, four UN member states – India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan – have not signed the NPT.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]