The annual plenary session of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) ended in Seoul on Friday without making any decision on India’s membership bid.

After holding two lengthy closed-door sessions on the subject of new memberships in the last 48 hours, the elite Group issued a statement, saying that the NSG was very much concerned about continued global proliferation activities. The 48-member Group also reaffirmed its determination “to continue to co-operate closely in order to deter, hinder and prevent the transfer of controlled items or technology that could contribute to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices”.

The participating governments reiterated their firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime. They also decided to continue discussions on “technical, legal and political aspects’ of the membership of non-NPT states in future. However, the Group indicated that India’s case was the only one under consideration during the special sessions, as Pakistan’s case was not even discussed.

The first day of NSG meet ended in a deadlock on Thursday, with China strongly opposing India’s membership bid. The Chinese officials repeatedly said that India’s membership was not on the agenda and they would make every effort to prevent any discussion on New Delhi’s bid. China made its stance clear soon after Japan raised India’s case in the morning session. The Chinese officials received support from their Austrian, Irish and Brazilian counterparts, who questioned the admission of a country (like India), which had not signed the NPT, to the grouping. At a time when India needed all the support it could get for its NSG membership, Switzerland, too, backstabbed the South Asian country. The Central European nation, which had earlier extended its complete support, opposed New Delhi’s bid, citing India being a non-NPT state, and joined the group of countries opposing India’s bid for NSG. This came as a shock for New Delhi because Bern had extended its complete support during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country. With the US, the UK, France, Hungary, Australia, Germany and Canada supporting India’s entry, it was agreed that the issue would be taken up again on Friday.

Through the session, an Indian team led by Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar monitored developments in the South Korean capital. The Indian delegation also met officials of various countries to try a favourable outcome. Brazil’s objections surprised the Indian officials, as the Latin American country is a member of the five-nation BRICS (acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Brazilian officials backed China’s stand even after holding talks with Foreign Secretary Jaishankar on Thursday morning.

Clearly disappointed by the outcome, Indian officials lashed out at China in a veiled reference to “one country that had persistently raised procedural hurdles”, stressing that an “early decision on (India’s) application remains in larger global interest”. Significantly, the sharp statement pointing towards Beijing came just 12 hours after the meeting of Indian Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent.

The two leaders held talks on Thursday on the sidelines of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the Uzbek capital (when the NSG meeting was underway 5,000km away in Seoul). Prime Minister Modi had urged the Chinese president to “make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application and judge it on its own merit”. Although the Indian officials did not disclose issues discussed by the two leaders, senior spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said that Modi had requested Beijing to positively contribute to the emerging consensus in Seoul.

Earlier on Thursday, PM Modi received a warm welcome upon his arrival in Tashkent. Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoev was present at the Tashkent International Airport to receive Modi. Later, the Indian PM told the media that the main aim of his Taskent visit was to expand New Delhi’s engagement with the SCO in areas of security, defence and energy. The PM further expressed hope that India’s entry into the SCO as a full member would allow New Delhi to extend co-operation with SCO member countries.

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]