NSG: Modi seeks Moscow route to China

NEW DELHI,SUHASINI HAIDAR:Back from his visits to Washington, Geneva and Mexico City to lobby for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now setting his sights east: asking Russia for help with the countries still holding out, even as he prepares to meet with President Vladmir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the SCO summit later this month.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address at the joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. File photo

The outreach is particularly important as China continues to maintain that “NSG members remain divided” on the issue of membership, claiming that “many countries within the group share China’s stance.”

Officials expect a final decision may not come till the eve of the NSG meeting in South Korea on June 24, when the Prime Minister is expected to meet Mr. Xi at the SCO in Tashkent, that is also discussing India and Pakistan’s membership, on June 23-24.

Shanghai meet crucial for NSG nod

After his visits to Washington, Mexico and Switzerland to garner support for India’s membership into the elite Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet with President Putin, President Xi as well as Central Asian leaders including Kazakh President Nazarbayev in Tashkent to make a final attempt to push through India’s NSG membership. The Shanghai Cooperation Agreement is a six-member Central Asian grouping seen as a counterpoint to the US-European military bloc NATO.

Significantly, Mr Modi called President Putin on Saturday wishing him on Russia’s national day and confirming the meeting at the SCO.

In a statement, the Kremlin said: “The discussion focused on practical issues of the two countries’ cooperation, including preparations for the top-level contacts to be held shortly.”

While refusing to confirm whether “the practical issues” included India’s NSG membership, MEA sources said Russia has always been “very supportive” of India’s NSG aspirations. But analysts say Mr Modi may be hopeful of more: that Russia will use its influence with countries like Kazakhstan and Turkey, who are not yet convinced to back India, and most importantly, as a bridge with China, that has taken a tough position.

Bridge to China

“Increasingly, Russia is moving in as a mediator between India and China,” says former Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar, pointing to the Russia-India-China meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attended in Moscow in April, where the three countries hammered out an acceptable formulation on the contentious South China Sea. Since then, Mr. Bhadrakumar pointed out, India omitted the explicit reference to the South China Sea in the joint statement with the U.S. last week as well.

“It all coming to a climax at the SCO summit,” former Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar said