China’s stance doesn’t affect US support to India, says official

John Kirby

WASHINGTON: The United States has said the Chinese refusal to endorse India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has not changed its position on the issue.

“Nothing’s changed about our position,” US State Department’s spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing in Washington when asked to comment on the Chinese stance.

“We continue to call on the participating governments of the NSG to support India’s application at the plenary session this week in Seoul,” he added.

The weeklong annual meeting of the NSG began in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday and apparently the group is scheduled to consider membership applications during its plenary session on June 23 and 24.

Both India and Pakistan submitted their applications in Vienna last month. While the United States strongly supports India’s bid, it has asked Pakistan to present its request before other members.

Under NSG rules, a new member can only be added with a consensus and even one dissenting vote could block the applicant.

On Monday, the Chinese government announced that India’s admission to the NSG was not even on the agenda at the Seoul plenary and it was not considered at an earlier NSG meeting in Vienna either.

China has publicly opposed India’s entry into the NSG, arguing that only those who had signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) could join the group.

Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons but have not signed the NPT. While the US is seeking an exemption for India, the Chinese argue that any exemption should apply to both India and Pakistan or both should be kept out.

At the State Department briefing, Mr Kirby noted that during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington earlier this month, US President Barack Obama welcomed India’s application and reaffirmed that India was ready for membership.

The United States, he said, was still urging other members to back India. Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter to all NSG members, soliciting support for India.

Asked if the United States had also taken up the matter with China, Mr Kirby said: “India’s application is something we have routinely talked to other NSG participating members. This is not a new topic of discussion that we’ve had privately with the members.”

The NSG was formed in 1974 in response to India’s first nuclear test and regulates nuclear trade to prevent further proliferation. As a member state, India could use the group to create problems for Pakistan’s nuclear programme and could also use the consensus clause to prevent Islamabad from ever joining the group.