China to block India at NSG?

The odds are lengthening on the Indian nuclear deal as the opposition in the Nuclear Suppliers Group refuses to die down and India sticks to its “red lines’’ on refusing the amendments. In a clear sign of the growing challenge, China has indicated to the NSG that it would make its “concerns’’ regarding the Indian nuclear deal clear at the next meeting. As a precursor, China’s top government mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, trashed the deal on Monday, saying it was a “blow to the international non-proliferation regime’’. There are indications that the NSG might defer a decision on the India waiver yet again and new dates of September 11-12 are already doing the rounds. Of course, it would then not be possible to move the deal into the US Congress in time and might need some urgent fiddling with the Congressional rules and calendar. The naysayers at the NSG are reportedly not convinced with the changes that have been incorporated into the new draft text. Many of them have complained about it being too “cosmetic’’ and “weak’’. On the issue of testing, the new draft, said sources, doesn’t mention the term at all, which is not acceptable to many NSG members. Countries like Japan continue to insist on something in the text that automatically cuts off cooperation with India if it conducts another nuclear test. That would be a “killer’’ amendment as far as India is concerned.Some other countries have asked India to make a political statement reaffirming its commitment to non-proliferation—this could help assuage some of the concerns that are being expressed. There is no indication about whether India has aceepted or indicated acceptance of this request. The US is also changing the composition of its team in Vienna. In place of John Rood, the US team is now likely to be led by William Burns, undersecretary for political affairs. Whether this will have any effect on the US’ persuasive skills is unclear at this point.In New Delhi on Monday, trying to counter perceptions that the US was not doing enough to push the deal, visiting US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher told reporters, “We are working very closely (with India) and hard on the NSG.’’Diplomatic sources also said that US President George Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice have been on the phone with leaders of the objecting countries to persuade them to support the deal at the next NSG meeting.China’s opposition to the deal has been long expected but Beijing maintained an ambiguity about its stance. Monday’s commentary in the People’s Daily however, unveiled Beijing’s mind. “Whether it is motivated by geopolitical considerations or commercial interests, the US-India nuclear agreement has constituted a major blow to the international non-proliferation regime,’’ said the commentary by a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a leading state think tank. “Irrespective of the fate of the US-India nuclear agreement, the US’s multiple standards on non-proliferation issues have met with a sceptical world,’’ it added. China’s ambiguity on the deal was easy to stomach, but if it turns out that China tried to kill the deal in Vienna it would have negative consequences in India.

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