As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in India on Friday, Beijing softened its stand on the South Asian country’s NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership bid, indicating that China is ready to accept India as a member of the elite Group.
The state-run Xinhua news agency said that the door to the NSG has not been slammed shut for India and the Asian giant has no plan to keep its southern neighbour out of the elite club. The Chinese news agency also said that India’s entry into the elite group would depend on safeguarding the global non-proliferation regime.
It was the first time since June when China made a clear indication that India could become a member of the Group that controls trade in sensitive nuclear technology. The commentary by Xinhua further hinted that China could even back India’s entry to the NSG, saying: “So far, there is no precedent for a non-NPT signatory to become a NSG member. Many inside the body that monitors the global flow of nuclear materials insist prudence in handing a membership card to any non-treaty party.” It added: “However, New Delhi should not be downhearted as the door to the NSG is not tightly closed. But any future discussions need to be based on safeguarding an international nuclear non-proliferation mechanism, in which India itself has a huge stake.”
The top Chinese political leadership has expressed hope that Wang’s visit to India will help normalise the Sino-Indian ties. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that it was important for the world’s two leading developing countries to build up consensus ahead of two important summits: the G-20 meeting in China and the BRICS meeting in India. The Chinese ministry also said that Beijing has always considered New Delhi as its partner, and not rival. So, according to the statement, China is ready to handle outstanding bilateral issues with sincerity and political dexterity.
Meanwhile, the Chinese minister said it was unfortunate that India blamed China for blocking its NSG membership. Upon his arrival in the Indian capital, Wang stressed that India should consider China as its “friend”. He told the Indian media that New Delhi should understand the fact that South China Sea is part of Beijing’s core interests and appreciate China’s concerns over the sensitive issue.
On Saturday, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj raised the NSG issue during her three-hour-long meeting with Wang. The Indian ministry confirmed the news, saying in a statement that the two leaders agreed to have a meeting between their top disarmament officials. They further decided to put in place a new mechanism at the Foreign Secretary-level to discuss various aspects of bilateral ties.
Swaraj also conveyed to Wang New Delhi’s concerns on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and urged her guest to review the situation on the border before taking further steps.
Earlier on Saturday, Wang discussed a number of issues with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Without revealing details of their discussion, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup posted on Twitter: “A morning for neighbourly engagement. Chinese FM Wang Yi calls on Prime Minister Modi.”