A month after India claimed that it had held ‘substantive’ talks with China on its attempt to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Beijing has shown willingness to discuss New Delhi’s NSG membership bid with its southern neighbour.

Ahead of the summit of the BRICS group of emerging nations, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said that his country would have no issue, if India became a member of the 48-member grouping of countries that trades in civil nuclear technology.

China held out an olive branch ahead of BRICS Summit, with Li saying that Beijing wants New Delhi to follow the rules set by NSG member countries. The Chinese minister also appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s multi-billion-dollar drive to build nuclear power plants in partnership with foreign countries, saying: “These rules were not set by China. On the issue of joining the NSG, China and India have all along had very good communications. And China is willing to have further communications with the Indian side, to increase consensus.”

Li further said it was unfortunate that India refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that recognises the five permanent UN Security Council members (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France) as nuclear weapons powers. He once again urged India to reconsider its decision, saying that signing the NPT would make it easier for the South Asian country to become the 49th member of Group.

Although the Modi government has welcomed China’s gesture, New Delhi has urged the global community to consider India’s track record of non-proliferation and let the country join the NSG. The top Indian political leadership has expressed hope that a deal can be reached in the coming days despite a setback at the NSG’s annual meeting in Seoul in June. The Indian policy makers are well aware of the fact that India, which has the backing of the US, needs China’s support to get the NSG membership.

However, Beijing is still not ready to allow India to become a NSG member without signing the NPT. Chinese President Xi Jinping has hinted that he will discuss India’s NSG membership bid with Bangladesh and Cambodia during his upcoming visit to the two countries. According to the Chinese president, it is important for both Beijing and New Delhi to know other Asian countries’ view on the issue before holding bilateral talks on India’s membership bid.

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]