New Delhi: Nearly two-and-a-half months after China scuttled India's NSG membership bid, the two countries on Tuesday discussed disarmament and non-proliferation issues with a focus on India's entry into the elite nuclear trade grouping, with China asserting that the matter has to be resolved multilaterally and not bilaterally.
A Chinese delegation led by Director General of Department of Arms Control Wang Qun visited India for talks with an Indian delegation led by Amandeep Singh Gill, Joint Secretary (Disarmament & International Security) in the Ministry of External Affairs.
"The talk covered issues of mutual interest in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. As agreed by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in their meeting on August 13, the two sides focused in particular on an issue of priority for India - membership of the NSG," the Ministry said in a press release.
It said the discussions were "candid, pragmatic and substantive".
Noting that participation in the 48-member NSG is an issue of "major concern" to India, the Chinese Embassy here said China "for its part, shared with India the recent developments as it sees within the Group in relation to the question.
"China also shared with India its principled positions and views on the above question. In the meantime, China listened to and had the inputs from India on this issue, and indicated that it will bring such views and inputs back to the Group for its consideration. China hopes the above inputs will help facilitate the relevant discussions within the Group."
"The two sides realised that the question of the non-NPT states' participation is, in essence, a multilateral issue, and can only be subject to multilateral solution by the Group. Bilateral exchanges should serve to facilitate the relevant discussions within the Group," the embassy statement said.
China also pointed out that the issue of the non-NPT states' participation in the NSG raises new questions for the Group under the new circumstances, and the crux of the above question is how to address the gap between the existing policies and practices of the non-NPT states and the existing international non-proliferation rules and norms based on the NPT as the cornerstone.
"China wishes to see early commencement of an open and transparent inter-governmental process to undertake, in accordance with the mandate adopted by the NSG at its Seoul Plenary meeting, a comprehensive and thorough study on the question of the non-NPT states' participation in the NSG in various aspects.
"China has hitherto not yet taken a position on any country-specific membership in the category of the non-NPT states. And China supports the notion of two-step approach within the Group to address the above question, ie, at the first stage, to explore and reach agreement on a non-discriminatory formula applicable to all the non-NPT states, and to proceed to take up country-specific membership issues at the second stage," the statement said.
China, for its part, expressed its readiness to actively participate in the above process within the Group.
The two sides also agreed to meet for the next round of talks on a mutually convenient date.
According to sources, India reiterated its "impeccable" track-record in the non-proliferation area and stressed on its requirement for clean energy.
India conveyed to the Chinese side that its implementation of NPT principles was "second to none", sources said.
In the June Plenary of NSG in Seoul, despite strong American support, China stonewalled India's bid to get entry into the group on the grounds that it was a not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Wang, who was the Chief Negotiator for China in the South Korea meet, had told reporters that signing of the NPT "is a must", maintaining that the rule has not been set by China but by the international community.
Wang had also warned "if exceptions are allowed here or there on the question of NPT, the international non- proliferation regime will collapse altogether".
The two sides also had in-depth discussions on issues related to cyber security and the work of the Conference on Disarmament.