New Delhi, May 22: China today dismissed the possibility of dropping its opposition to India's immediate entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group that is holding its plenary next month, highlighting the sharpening discord between the neighbours days after New Delhi boycotted a summit in Beijing.
India had formally applied for membership of the 48-member NSG last summer, arguing that its inclusion in the cartel of nations involved in nuclear trade would help bring predictability for nuclear investors keen to set up reactors in India. Pakistan too had applied soon after.
But China, which last year blocked India's membership by seeking a "two-step process" for the inclusion of countries that are not signatories to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), today made it clear its position remained unchanged.
Neither India nor Pakistan is party to the NPT but New Delhi's track record -- no proliferation -- compared with Islamabad's won it support for membership from the majority of NSG members.
India is convinced the "two-step process" --- that the NSG first set down criteria any non-NPT signatory must meet to be eligible for membership before considering each application on merit --- is meant to delay New Delhi's accession to the technology control regime.
"The position of the Chinese side on the issue of membership of non-NPT parties has not changed," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said today.
"The Chinese side supports the group's 'two-step' approach to the relevant issues through an open and transparent intergovernmental process, in accordance with the principle of consensus."
The Chinese insistence on a "two-step process" effectively kills any possibility of progress on India's application for membership to the group at its coming plenary in Bern, Switzerland, in June.
India holds a special waiver from the NSG from 2008 that allows it to trade in nuclear technology and fuel with other members of the group without being a member. But the absence of full membership reduces the confidence of potential nuclear investors in sinking significant money in India, New Delhi has argued.
These investments, India insists, are in turn important for it to meet the climate change commitments it outlined at the Paris conclave in December 2015.
China's clear unwillingness to negotiate over India's NSG membership follows a pattern of deepening tensions that saw New Delhi boycott Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Forum summit in Beijing last week.
The heads of state or government of 28 nations had joined Xi at that summit, held on China's One Belt One Road (Obor) initiative that aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe through a network of railroads, highways and ports.
Obor includes a China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. While skipping the Beijing conclave, India cited the CPEC as a violation of its sovereignty and questioned the financial viability and sustainability of the other Obor projects.
Weeks earlier, China had protested after India allowed the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing calls a separatist, to visit disputed parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
India has accused China of a double standard on terrorism, citing Beijing's repeated obstruction of a New Delhi proposal for the UN to proscribe Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar.