India's NSG entry 'not on agenda' at Seoul meet: China

China on Monday asserted that India's membership was not on the agenda at the coming meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, in an apparent contradiction of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's assertion on Sunday that India was close to getting China's support for its membership.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in response to a question that admission of countries which were yet to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), including India, was not on the agenda of the Seoul conference of the NSG. This signals that in Beijing's perception detailed negotiations were still pending before New Delhi could enter the 48-nation club.

''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,'' Hua said.

But in New Delhi, foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup contradicted Hua, saying that the issue of India's membership to the NSG was coming up at the plenary meeting of the group, which controls the flow of nuclear technology among its members. He, however, cautioned the media not to indulge in ''needless speculation'' about India's membership and await ''factual developments'' in the coming days.

Hua acknowledged that foreign secretary S Jaishakar visited Beijing last week to discuss India's membership of the NSG, citing India's growing demands for clean energy, and concerns regarding climate change, as the basis for its membership. She added that the Chinese side apprised Jaishankar of Beijing's stand.

Hua made three additional points to signal that India's bid to make it into the NSG could turn out to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

First, the time was not ripe for Indian membership as ''the NSG is still divided about non-NPT countries' entry into the NSG''.

''We understand that non-NPT countries are very concerned about their entry into the NSG but since the NSG is still divided on this issue it is still not mature to talk about the entry issue at the annual conference in Seoul,'' she observed.

Second, further discussions were required to achieve consensus, and China hoped that that under the ''current circumstances'', the NSG will have ''thorough discussion to make decisions based on consultation''.

Finally, China was unwilling to make an exception for India's NSG membership. The spokesperson made it unambiguous that the ''NSG should discuss the entry issue of non-NPT countries as a whole instead of specific non-NPT countries joining.''

Analysts say that the stage is now set for clearer political direction, which was possible during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of this week's summit in Tashkent of countries belonging to the Shanghai Cooperation Organsisation (SCO).

The two leaders are meeting in September again during the G-20 summit in Hangzhou in China and later in Goa at the Brazil- Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) summit in October.