Beijing: Acknowledging that India is "inching closer" to get membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Chinese official media on Thursday said if New Delhi is admitted into the elite grouping, "nuclear balance" between India and Pakistan will be broken.
Stating that India's entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will "shake strategic balance in South Asia and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region", an article in the state-run 'Global Times' however said China could support India's inclusion in the 48 member nuclear club if it "played by rules".
Written by Fu Xiaoqiang research fellow with the state-run think tank China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, the article a second in as many days by the same daily highlights China's strident and vocal opposition to India's entry into NSG and concerns that its all weather ally Pakistan will be left behind because "entry into the NSG will make it (India) a 'legitimate nuclear power'."
"New Delhi seems to have inched closer to NSG membership after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gained backing from the US, Swiss and Mexico in its bid to join the elite nuclear club earlier this month," the article said mentioning for the first time India's progress in getting support from Mexico and Switzerland.
"Becoming a member of the NSG, a bloc that governs civilian nuclear trade worldwide, will grant India global acceptance as a legitimate nuclear power," said the article titled?"Beijing could support India's NSG accession path if it plays by rules".
A commentary in the same daily on June 14 had said that India's admission into NSG would "jeopardise" China's national interest and touch a "raw nerve" in Pakistan.
"If it joins the group, New Delhi will be able to import civilian nuclear technology and fuels from the international market more conveniently, while saving its domestic nuclear materials for military use," said the article in the Global Times, a tabloid daily which is part of the ruling Communist Party of China group of publications headed by People's Daily.
"The major goal for India's NSG ambition is to obtain an edge over Islamabad in nuclear capabilities. Once New Delhi gets the membership first, the nuclear balance between India and Pakistan will be broken," it said.
"As a result, Pakistan's strategic interests will be threatened, which will in turn shake the strategic balance in South Asia, and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region," it said.
The reason why India has scored a big win in garnering support for its NSG membership from some countries is because Washington has started to treat New Delhi as part of the US alliance, the write-up said.
"It was only several years ago that Modi could not even get a US visa, but now he has visited the US more often than any other country during his two years in office," it said.
The US recognised New Delhi as a "major defence partner" during Modi's recent visit, meaning that the White House has given India the treatment as a US military ally, it said.
The article said that over the years, the US has been "bending the rules" to back India's nuclear projects.
"Against the backdrop of Washington's accelerated pace of promoting its pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, it will be highly likely to keep supporting New Delhi's nuclear ambitions, in order to make it a stronger power to contain China," it said.
The attitude of the US has had and will undoubtedly have an impact on some other nations. For those countries which also wish to put a finger in the pie of India's market, many of them begin to back India's NSG membership, or at least not oppose it, the article said in apparent reference to majority of the countries in the NSG supporting India's entry.
"However, as a country that has signed neither the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) nor the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), India is not yet qualified for accession into the NSG," it said.
"That's why the bloc is still divided over the case, and countries including New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria have expressed their firm objections to India's membership," it said.
The article made no mention of problems faced by Pakistan in getting into the NSG due to its past record of proliferating the nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea, where as India is seeking entry into group based on clean non-proliferation record.
"As a crucial defender of the international system against nuclear proliferation, China does not wish to see the political and legal foundation of global nuclear security to be challenged by any party who does not abide by rules," the article said without referring to Beijing's own nuclear power cooperation with Islamabad in supplying a number of nuclear reactors, including two 1100 mw reactors currently under construction in Karachi.
"For those countries that are developing nuclear technology without the acceptance of the international community, perhaps counting them into the non-proliferation mechanism will better safeguard nuclear security," it said.
But at the same the article said China backs India's entry if a fair and just principle is worked out through consensus.
"Yet before that, a fair and just principle must be made through common consensus of all current members of the NSG, rather than the US and India's reckless pushing at the cost of rule-breaking".
"So far, all NSG members have signed the NPT. So the question is, if any non-signatory of the treaty wants to join the group, under what condition can it be accepted? If such a standard is to be made one day, then it will be possible for both India and Pakistan to become part of the group," it said.
"Beijing welcomes New Delhi playing a role as a major power in global governance, including producing positive effect in a nuclear non-proliferation organisation," it said.
"As long as all NSG members reach a consensus over how a non-NPT member could join the NSG and India promises to comply with stipulations over the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons while sticking to its policy of independence and self-reliance, China could support New Delhi's path toward the club," it said.