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In Tashkent, Modi engages China on NSG membership

Tashkent,KALLOL BHATTACHERJEE: As India makes a strong bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent and is understood to have sought China’s support for it, seen as very crucial to take forward the process.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets China's President Xi Jinping in Tashkent on Thursday. Photo: Special Arrangement

The outcome of the meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi will determine the proceedings of the NSG’s two-day plenary that began in Seoul on Thursday, sources said.

Briefing the media on the bilateral talks, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Prime Minister Modi urged Mr. Xi to “make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application and judge it on its own merit.”

“He [Mr. Modi] said China should contribute to the emerging consensus in Seoul,” Mr. Swarup said.

Mr. Modi arrived in Tashkent to a warm welcome as he kicked off a two-day visit to attend the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with the aim of expanding India’s engagement with the China-dominated grouping in areas of security, defence and energy.

In a special gesture, Mr. Modi was received at the Tashkent international airport by his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoev.

In the two-day summit that began on Thursday, the SCO will start the process of India’s accession to the grouping as a full-fledged member, along with Pakistan.

Prior to his departure to Tashkent, Mr. Modi said in New Delhi that India looked forward to a fruitful outcome of its engagement at the SCO summit.

India’s entry into the SCO as a full member will provide it an opportunity to have extended cooperation with member countries in areas of defence, security and counter-terrorism.

“I will travel to Uzbekistan for a brief visit to attend the SCO Summit and interact with leaders of SCO nations. India is glad to be a member of the SCO and looks forward to fruitful outcomes particularly in the field of economic cooperation through SCO,” the Prime Minister said in a statement before leaving for Tashkent.

He said India attached great importance to ties with Central Asia and always sought to expand economic and people-to-people ties with the region.

Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs Sujata Mehta on Wednesday said “The process of India’s accession to the SCO will start with a signature on the base document which is called the Memorandum of Obligations“.

Asked whether India would become a full member of the SCO, she said there was a schedule laid down for India to sign over 30 other documents and it will happen as the year goes by.

Our Correspondent Kallol Bhattercherjee adds:

A long-drawn process lies ahead for India to complete its entry into the SCO, confirmed the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Wednesday, maintaining that India seeks “fairly flexible multilateralism” in its “extended neighbourhood.”

“At this upcoming summit, the process of India’s accession to the SCO will start with a signature on the ‘base document’, which is called the ‘Memorandum of Obligations’,” said Ms. Mehta,” highlighting that the issue of expansion of the SCO was a part of a long-drawn multilateral discussion.

A diplomatic source confirmed that India will attend the summit as an “Acceding Member” but will speak from the category of “Observers.”

“At this upcoming summit, the process of India’s accession to the SCO will start with a signature on the ‘base document’ which is called the ‘Memorandum of Obligations’,” said Sujata Mehta, Secretary (West),” highlighting that the issue of expansion of the SCO has been part of a long-drawn multilateral discussion. A diplomatic source has confirmed that India will attend the summit as an “Acceding Member” but will speak from the category of “Observers.”

“There is a schedule laid down for us to sign up to the other documents that are required that India needs to accede to and that will happen as the year goes by,” Ms. Mehta said, explaining that India would have to sign at least 30 sets of documents that would finally culminate in India acceding to the SCO.

The Memorandum of Obligations, however, will begin a process of more intense engagement. “We have been working with the SCO members on several fronts like anti-terrorism, transport, culture and we hope that our engagement in these areas will intensify through this,” Ms. Mehta said and added, “there is a talk of an SCO energy club emerging and we will wait and see how that develops.

The memorandum which India will sign on June 24 will also provide opportunity to intensify anti-terror cooperation between India and China. “Anti-terror cooperation is a subject under the SCO that all member countries undertake and we too will be part of that and certainly we too envisage cooperation on that front,” she said.

However, unlike the last SCO summit at Ufa, where the bilateral between PM Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif was the highlight, this year Pakistan has not yet “formally communicated” to India about its representation at the SCO, reducing the chances of a bilateral meet. However, Prime Minister Modi is expected to hold two bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia at Tashkent.

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