China’s nod to Indian desire for N-commerce

Singapore, November 21:

Premier Wen Jiabao said today that China backs international civil nuclear energy cooperation with India, remarks seen as Beijing’s inclination not to block New Delhi’s efforts to conduct nuclear commerce.

Wen made the remarks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a 30-minute bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit here as New Delhi was set for talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on an India-specific safeguards agreement.

Indian officials said Wen was “forthcoming and supportive of international civil nuclear energy

cooperation with India”, interpreting it as China’s gesture not to block New Delhi’s case when it goes to the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Wen’s comments came a day after Manmohan Singh told reporters on his way to Singapore that “the Chinese have not said that they will not support us” over nuclear commerce.

China was one of the countries that took a stridently anti-India stand

after New Delhi’s 1998 nuclear tests. It is a key member of the NSG, and its support is vital for India to enter the world of nuclear commerce.

India is to discuss with the IAEA an India specific safeguards agreement for its civilian nuclear reactors that will be separated in line with the Indo-US nuclear deal.

If and when that happens, India will approach the NSG to seek an exemption to conduct nuclear commerce. The NSG’s green light is necessary because it is the biggest

cartel of nations preventing nuclear commerce with India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Today’s meeting between Manmohan Singh and Wen was their second this year, and officials said the talks were marked “by cordiality and friendship”. The two leaders reiterated their readiness to take the India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity “to a new level”. Wen told Manmohan Singh said “friendship with India is the strategic objective of China”.