India sure of China's support for nuclear group's membership

NEW DELHI: India said Sunday that it was confident of winning China's support for US-backed efforts for its membership in a group of 48 nations controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters that China was not opposing India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, but that it has raised objections relating to criteria and processes.

An Indian Foreign Ministry official recently visited Beijing and held discussions on the membership issue and highlighted India's track record in efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

Asked whether China was linking India's membership of the nuclear group with Pakistan, Swaraj said India's stand was that each country's membership should be decided on merit. Pakistan, India's archrival, also has applied for membership to the group.

"India is not yet a member of the group and it has no say on the membership of any other country," Swaraj said. "We will not oppose any other country's membership, but would like it to be decided on merit."

She said India would succeed in getting China's support before the next meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group on June 23 in South Korea.

The group is focused on restricting nuclear proliferation by controlling which countries can gain access to technology used in making atomic weapons.

Only countries that have ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons are normally eligible for membership. India hasn't, but has committed to some controls of its nuclear program under a nuclear cooperation pact with the United States.

During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Washington, President Barack Obama came out in support of Indian membership in the nuclear group, which led other nations, including Mexico and Switzerland, to suggest they too were on board.