India, China hold pragmatic talks on NSG

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In what can be seen as a sign of China relenting on India’s bid for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a Chinese delegation visited New Delhi on Tuesday and discussed the issue with the Indian side even as Beijing said that it supported a “two-step approach” to the issue.

“A Chinese delegation led by Director General Wang Qun of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited India on September 13 for talks with an Indian delegation led by Amandeep Singh Gill, Joint Secretary (Disarmament & International Security) in the Ministry of External Affairs,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

“The talks covered issues of mutual interest in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation,” it stated.

At the NSG plenary in Seoul in June, Beijing blocked New Delhi’s membership bid saying that for a country to be a member of the 48-nation bloc, it has to be a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

During Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to India last month, it was agreed that China’s Director General for disarmament would hold talks with his Indian counterpart on the issue.

Wang Qun heads the Chinese side during NSG meetings.

“As agreed by the External Affairs Minister (Sushma Swaraj) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in their meeting on August 13, the two sides focused in particular on an issue of priority for India – membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Tuesday’s External Affairs Ministry statement said.

“The discussions were candid, pragmatic and substantive. The two sides agreed to meet for the next round on a mutually convenient date,” it added.

In a separate statement issued by the Chinese embassy after the meeting, it was stated that China supported the notion of a two-step approach within the NSG to explore a non-discriminatory formula applicable to all non-NPT states.

“On the question of non-NPT states’ participation in the NSG, given that it is an issue of major concern to India, China, for its part, shared with India the recent developments as it sees within the Group in relation to the question,” the statement said.

“China also shared with India its principled positions and views on the above question,” it stated.

“In the meantime, China listened to and had the inputs from India on this issue, and indicated that it will bring such views and inputs back to the Group for its consideration.”

It said that China hoped these inputs would help facilitate the relevant discussions within the NSG.

“The two sides realized that the question of the non-NPT states’ participation is, in essence, a multilateral issue, and can only be subject to multilateral solution by the Group,” the statement said.

“Bilateral exchanges should serve to facilitate the relevant discussions within the Group.”

According to the statement, China pointed out that the issue of the non-NPT states’ participation in the NSG raised new questions for the NSG under the new circumstances, and the crux of this question was how to address the gap between the existing policies and practices of the non-NPT states and the existing international non-proliferation rules and norms based on the NPT as the cornerstone.

“China wishes to see early commencement of an open and transparent inter-governmental process to undertake, in accordance with the mandate adopted by the NSG at its Seoul plenary meeting, a comprehensive and thorough study on the question of the non-NPT states’ participation in the NSG in various aspects,” it said.

“China has hitherto not yet taken a position on any country-specific membership in the category of the non-NPT states. And China supports the notion of two-step approach within the Group to address the above question, i.e., at the first stage, to explore and reach agreement on a non-discriminatory formula applicable to all the non-NPT states, and to proceed to take up country-specific membership issues at the second stage.”

China, according to the statement, is ready to actively participate in the above process within the Group.

“The two sides also had in-depth discussions on issues related to cyber security and the work of the Conference on Disarmament,” the Chinese statement continued.

“The two sides believed that the consultation is positive, candid, pragmatic and constructive,” it said.

“The two sides expressed the wish to intensify their exchanges on the relevant issues. They also agreed to hold the next round of consultation in China in due course, to be decided through diplomatic channels.”

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