New Delhi: As the tempo builds up on the NSG question, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Saturday. Russia has been supportive of India’s global ambitions from the UN Security Council to the nuclear deal, though Modi’s diplomatic focus has so far been on the US.
According to a Kremlin statement, the phone call on Saturday was at Modi’s behest. “The leaders confirmed their intention to continue comprehensive deepening of bilateral relations, which have the character of a very privileged strategic partnership,” it said.
Modi and Putin are also scheduled to meet soon. “The discussion focused on practical issues of the two countries’ cooperation, including preparations for the top-level contacts to be held shortly,” the statement added.
Modi may be lining up some big meetings in the days before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary, including with Chinese President Xi Jinping, possibly on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Tashkent.
However, the official Chinese position only appears to have hardened against India’s bid. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Sunday was quoted as saying, “There was no deliberation on any items related to the accession to the NSG by India or any other countries that are not signatories to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).”
He added, “China has noted that some non-NPT countries aspire to join the NSG but when it comes to the accession by non-NPT countries, China maintains that the group should have full discussions before forging consensus and making decisions based on agreement. The NPT provides a political and legal foundation for the international non-proliferation regime as a whole. China’s position applies to all non-NPT countries and targets no one in particular.”
The Chinese move right now appears to be to delay the entire NSG process until next year. Ultimately, the Chinese decision whether to support India or not will depend on one factor — how much China values the India relationship.
Sources said the Vienna meeting saw a diminishing number of voices raised against India. Countries like Ireland and Austria are insisting on processes that have to be followed.
But the opposition to India has crystallized to two countries — China and Turkey. While China is trying to bring in the NPT as a criterion, Turkey is the only country so far to insist on parity between India and Pakistan. Turkey has been a long-standing ally of Pakistan, particularly the Pakistan army. In recent times, India-Turkey ties have been on an upward trajectory but on balance Turkey would support Pakistan rather than India.
Quite apart from the PM, the foreign ministry itself has been on the frontlines of the global lobbying effort. Secretaries, heads of missions and joint secretaries have fanned out to put India’s point of view in different capitals.