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S JaishankarStepping up its diplomatic outreach to China ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary in Seoul, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar made a quiet trip to Beijing this week to try and win over China’s backing for India’s membership.

China has been leading a group of countries of the 48-member NSG that are holding out against giving India membership.

Confirming Jaishankar’s unannounced trip to Beijing, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the Foreign Secretary was in China from June 16-17 “for bilateral consultations with his Chinese counterpart. All major issues, including India’s NSG membership, were discussed.”

The NSG, which controls global nuclear trade, is to hold an important plenary from June 23-24 in Seoul when the membership application of India, along with Pakistan, are set to be taken up.

India has got the backing of most countries for admission to the NSG, including the US, Britain, Italy, Mexico and Switzerland.

China is opposing India’s membership on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and if the rule is relaxed for India, it should be done so too in the case of Pakistan.

Jaishankar’s meeting with Chinese leaders comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, when he is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 23 during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit meeting and take up the issue.

India and Pakistan are set to be formally inducted as members of the China-led SCO at the meeting.

Russia has strongly backed India’s entry to the NSG and has reportedly offered to take up the matter of India’s membership with China.

Jaishankar’s meeting also comes after the visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to China in the last week of May when the latter had taken up the issue with the top Chinese leadership.

The Chinese media has said that India’s entry to the NSG will “shake the strategic balance in South Asia and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region”.

The state-run Global Times daily in an opinion piece this week said that China could support India’s inclusion to the elite nuclear club if New Delhi “played by the rules”.

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