NEW DELHI: China has said that India’s admission to the elite Nuclear Sup­pliers Group (NSG) is not on the agenda of the grouping that started a plenary session in Seoul on Monday.

India’s NDTV news channel described China’s comments by foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chuny­ing in Beijing as a rebuff to India’s effort to join the NSG.

These followed rema­rks on Sunday by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj expressing optimism that Beijing was not obstructing India but only talking of “procedure”.

NDTV quoted senior government sources as remaining optimistic. “India sees this as a procedural block by China. We remain optimistic but never expected this to be easy. Outcomes are always uncertain,” one such source said.

China has been leading a group of nations that are holding out against India’s membership to the 48-nation club that controls access to nuclear technology.

The Chinese spokesperson said on Monday: “The inclusion of non-NPT members has never been a topic on the agenda of NSG meetings. In Seoul this year, there is no such topic.”

She said opinion within the member countries was divided on including not just India but all countries that are not signatories to the NPT or Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Indian media have ex­­pressed the hope that the issue would be discussed bet­­­ween Prime Minister Naren­­dra Modi and Presi­dent Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Council’s meeting in Tashkent later this week.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2016