NEW DELHI • India has blamed regional rival China for blocking its entry to a nuclear trade group opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, after its members met in South Korea with no decision on India's bid to join.
India wants to become a member of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that works to prevent the sharing of technology that could spread nuclear weapons.
New Delhi believes joining the NSG, which concluded a two-day meeting in Seoul last Friday, would give it better access to low-cost, clean nuclear energy, important for economic growth.
But despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reported attempts to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping to support India's membership, Beijing stood firm in its opposition.
"The NSG plenary in Seoul... decided against granting India membership of the grouping immediately," Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup told the Press Trust of India. A three-hour discussion on India's membership saw "procedural hurdles persistently raised by one country", he said.
One obstacle reportedly raised by China was that India is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - a pact on nuclear disarmament that Delhi says is biased.
The director-general of the Department of Arms Control at China's Foreign Ministry said Beijing would not bend the rules and allow Delhi membership as it had not signed the NPT.
"Applicant countries must be signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons," Mr Wang Qun was quoted as saying in Seoul last Thursday night.
"This is a pillar, not something that China set. It is universally recognised by the international community," he said, according to a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry last Friday.
The enlargement of the NSG "is a formidable task and parties are far apart within the group", Mr Wang added, noting that the NSG's rules should be respected, as such rules are not targeted against any specific countries.
However, as a seeming indication of how the anti-China mood was being stoked in India, a front-page headline in the Hindustan Times newspaper said: "India singles out China for crushing NSG dream."
But others said that China had not been alone in its opposition.
The Indian Express newspaper said: "No entry in NSG: India blames one country (China), others said no too."
Mr Modi had ramped up his bid to get India into the NSG in the past few weeks, undertaking a multi-nation trip to court key countries including the United States, Switzerland and Mexico. He met Mr Xi on the sidelines of a summit in Uzbekistan last Thursday, apparently to push for Beijing's support.
India's formal application to the group last month received backing from key NSG members including the US, France and Japan.
"India believes that an early decision on its application remains in larger global interest," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA