India's wait for a coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership continues even after eight years of lobbying, as China foiled its latest bid in Seoul on the grounds that New Delhi has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Also upholding China's technical objection to India's membership were NSG members South Africa, Norway, Brazil, Austria, New Zealand, Ireland and Turkey, diplomatic sources said, after the annual plenary of the 48-nation grouping ended in the South Korean capital on Friday without any decision on New Delhi's application.
India blamed China for the diplomatic fiasco that came a day after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a 45-minute meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup without naming Beijing said "procedural hurdles persistently raised by one country" stalled India's bid even as most others in the grouping supported New Delhi.
"An overwhelming number of those who took the floor supported India's membership and appraised India's application positively," Swarup said.
But an NSG statement after the Seoul plenary did not mention about membership applications from India or any other country, including Pakistan, indicating that the grouping could not arrive at a consensus on allowing the countries that have not signed the non-proliferation agreement. India says the NPT is "flawed and discriminatory".
The statement said the meeting discussed the "issue of technical, legal and political aspects of the participation of non-NPT states in the NSG and decided to continue its discussion".
"Participating governments reiterated their firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime."
Swarup said the NSG statement suggested that "India requires to join the NPT and our stand on the NPT is well known".
India, strongly backed by the US, applied for NSG membership on May 12 this year. But it began working for the entry into the elite club of nations that regulate global nuclear trade and technology way back in 2008.
The NSG in that year waived the full-scope safeguards requirement and allowed India to import enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology without signing the NPT. The grouping then said it was giving "clean and unconditional" waiver "based on the commitments and actions" on non-proliferation undertaken by India.
With strong support from the US, Argentina, Britain, Italy, Mexico, France, Russia and host South Korea, India was seeking NPT concessions from the grouping on the same grounds that it had a clean non-proliferation record.
But China virtually stonewalled its chances and raised the pitch that other non-NPT signatories, including Pakistan, will also seek the concession.
Pakistan has an alleged bad track record on proliferation and is said to have sold atomic weapons technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.
Ahead of the Seoul plenary, India made hectic diplomatic efforts, which continued till the NSG meeting ended, to secure the membership in the grouping which works on the principle of consensus and allows a new member only if all existing members agree.
At the end, the sources said, at least 10 NSG members sided with China and there were only 38 supporting India's application to be taken up in the main plenary.
China did not hide its opposition, saying the global non-proliferation order will collapse if India joined the group without signing the NPT.
"If exceptions are allowed here or there, the international non-proliferation order will collapse," said Wang Qun, Director General of the Department of Arms Control of China's Foreign Ministry.
Back home, the opposition Congress said the NSG failure was an "embarrassment for India" and blamed Prime Minister Modi's desperation for it.
"Diplomacy is always done by wisdom and silence. We have never seen diplomacy being conducted in this manner, making it very clear who are you lobbying with and whom you are petitioning with," Congress' Anand Sharma said in New Delhi.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a bitter critique of Modi, said the Prime Minister's foreign policy had "completely failed" and sought to know from him what he did on his "foreign jaunts".
"For its defeat on the NSG issue, shouldn't the PMO be questioned?" Kejriwal asked.