China on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of India getting Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership at the group's meeting in Seoul as Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar flew to the South Korean capital to make a last-minute push for New Delhi's bid to join the elite bloc.
Chinese Foreign Ministry said the membership of countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was not on the agenda at the two-day NSG meeting beginning on Thursday in Seoul.
"The meeting is only to deliberate on the entry application of countries that are parties to the (Non-Proliferation Treaty) NPT," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in Beijing.
"As for the entry of non-NPT countries, the group has never put that on its agenda."
India and Pakistan, the South Asian nuclear rivals, have not signed the NPT but have both applied for membership to the 48-nation grouping, seeking concessions.
The bloc, which regulates global atomic trade and technologies, works on the principle of consensus and allows a new member only if all existing members agree.
With strong backing from the US, India's bid has been supported by most of the NSG members, including Britain, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland and Russia.
On Wednesday, as India sped up its diplomatic outreach to push through the NSG, it got a shot in the arm when France said it considered that New Delhi’s membership “will bolster international efforts on combating proliferation”.
But China has stonewalled India's aspiration on the grounds that the grouping has not arrived at a consensus to allow non-NPT members. Turkey, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand are supporting the Chinese view.
Beijing insists that if any concession is given to India, the same should apply to Pakistan, which has an alleged bad track record on non-proliferation after it was said to have sold atomic weapons technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying dismissed the notion that China was making India's bid conditional to Pakistan's membership.
“As the entry of non-NPT countries has never been on top of the NSG agenda, the idea of blocking (India's bid) is out of question,” Hua said.
She said it was “true that all parties attach great importance to the entry of non-NPT countries” and “three unofficial discussions” have already been held over it.
But, she added, “the parties are yet to see eye to eye on this issue”.
“China hopes to further discuss this issue and will play a constructive role in the discussions.”
The Chinese statement came as India's Foreign Secretary Jaishankar flew to Seoul after making a quiet visit to Beijing earlier this month, to seek support for New Delhi's membership.
According to highly placed source, India's entry into the club "is a delicate and complex process" and nothing could be stated conclusively as of now. "At this point, let us not speculate,” the source said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at Tashkent on the sidelines of the two-day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).