India has held “constructive” talks with neighbouring China on the its bid for NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry sources said that top nuclear experts of the two Asian countries met in Beijing on Monday for the second time in two months to discuss the issue. While Joint Secretary (Disarmament and International Security) of the External Affairs Ministry Amandeep Singh Gill led the Indian delegation, the Chinese delegation was led by Director General of Department of Arms Control (of the Chinese Foreign Ministry) Wang Qun.

In Beijing, the Indian delegation (once again) made clear that it would not be possible for New Delhi to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for getting the NSG membership. However, Wang told the Indian delegates that as the issue of the non-NPT states’ participation in the NSG raised new questions for the Group under the changing global geopolitical scenario, China would urge the elite group to address the gap between the existing policies and practices of the non-NPT states. He said that China is not against India’s inclusion in the Group, but against violation of norms (and the existing membership norms are based on the NPT).

Wang clarified Beijing’s stand on the issue, saying that as the international community (and not China) set the rules, India would have to convince other NSG members to become the 49th member of the elite group. “If exceptions are allowed here or there on the question of NPT, the international non-proliferation regime will collapse altogether,” he warned.

With Beijing mooting a criteria-based approach for India’s entry into the NSG, New Delhi claimed that the NSG membership would ensure a stable trading regime for its quest to expand its civil nuclear programme. Gill told the Chinese officials that the expansion of India’s civil nuclear programme was necessary to meet targets under the Paris climate deal.

Later, Gill and Wang announced that Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi would meet next week to carry over the discussion. They also said that it became important for both the countries to iron out their differences on India’s NSG membership issue. Monday’s talks took place ahead of possible informal consultations by a NSG panel under the chairmanship of Argentine Ambassador Rafael Grossi (on India’s membership).

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]