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Signals from NSG slug-fest

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Only one country, China, stood at the NSG gate obstructing the entry of India into the 48-member elite nuclear-trading group when they met in Seoul. The Chinese stance did not come as a surprise though its recourse to high moral ground with insistence on NPT was neither here nor there more so as Beijing was the original sinner of nuclear proliferation first as an exporter to Pakistan and second as a partner in AQ Khan-led Nuclear Wal-Mart of serving and retired generals.

And both India and its principal bid-backer, the United States, were aware that the dragon could and probably would veto Delhi's bid. China with its battered and tottering economy has no desire to see India become strong economically and in the process impinge upon its influence and pose a threat to its goals over time.

Pakistan has come in handy in this Chinese game. Islamabad has its own vested interest, and has its own scores to settle with India. It is, therefore, a willing proxy to Chinese insistence to hyphenate Islamabad with New Delhi.

In a manner of speaking, China indulged in brinkmanship diplomacy secure in the knowledge that the NSG will remain a hostage to its consensus practices. Because China knows full well that Pakistan, given its poor record on nuclear proliferation, is not on the same page as India's and will not be granted membership of the group. Hence it tried to stall the very discussion at NSG meet, and when it was forced to allow the discussion, shifted focus to the NPT issue.

"Applicant countries must be signatories of the NPT. This is a pillar, not something that China set. It is universally recognised by the international community," the Wang Qun, the head of the arms control department in China's foreign ministry, told the media, conveniently ignoring the fact that India has voluntarily joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which is a far more powerful non-proliferation forum than NPT.

Well, this is a self-goal for President Xi Jinping, who has been walking the extra mile to deepen China's share of Indian market.

Indeed, this is the second strategic mistake he has made in recent months- the first being in the South China Sea.

As several observers have noted, by adopting an aggressive stance in claiming that South China Sea as part of its territory, China drove its neighbours including the Philippines and Vietnam closer to the US. Vietnam is also forging closer defence ties with India, with which it has already established mutuality of economic interests in the South China Sea. Phnom Penh has just welcome President Obama, a visit that was unthinkable some years ago. Like Phnom Penh, Manila has renewed its ties with Washington.

New Delhi has had its share of concerns vis-a-vis Beijing for over couple of years. These worries are not related to the border dispute, which remains unresolved, nor to periodical incursions the PLA soldiers make into what is undoubtedly Indian territory in the Ladakh region. Delhi upped the ante after Chinese nuclear submarines made their presence felt first in the Sri Lankan port and later on in Pakistani waters.

Now by its 'veto' at Seoul meet, China made India finds itself on the same page as its South China Sea neighbours, and furthers the process that has started to see China geographically contained.

In the short run, for India the biggest solace vis-a-vis its failed NSG bid is the support from P4 -- Russia, US, UK, and France -- all permanent members of the UN Security Council since their support matters in realizing its another dream--membership of the Security Council. And it is reason enough to make Pakistani diplomats to burn the proverbial midnight oil.

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Rama Rao Malladi is New Delhi based senior journalist and distinguished commentator on South Asian and Central Asian issues. He is a regular contributor to several publications in and outside India. His articles are featured in News Blaze.Rama (more...)

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