China has said that it is willing to discuss "possibilities" with India on New Delhi’s campaign to become a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India last month said it had held "substantive" talks with China on its bid to join the NSG.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is campaigning to join the NSG to back its drive to build nuclear power plants in collaboration with the US, Russia and France with the aim of reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. The NSG is a 48-member grouping of countries that trades in civil nuclear technology.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, China's Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said new NSG members needed to be agreed upon by all existing members.
His remarks come ahead of a visit to India this week by Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend a summit of the BRICS group of emerging nations. The group has five members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
"On the issue of joining the NSG, China and India have all along had very good communications, and (China) is willing to have further communications with the Indian side, to increase consensus," Li said.
"On this, China is willing to jointly explore all kinds of possibilities with India, but this must accord with the charter of the NSG, and certain rules need to be respected by all sides," Li said, without elaborating.
The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) recognises the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – as nuclear weapons powers, but not other countries.
India has ruled out signing the NPT but says its track record of non-proliferation should entitle it to join the NSG, founded in response to India's first atomic weapons test in 1974.
India’s bid to win accession to the group has failed to win over strategic rival China, which effectively enjoys a veto because the group operates by consensus.
Backers of India's NSG bid, which include the US, hope a deal can be reached despite a setback at the group's annual meeting in Seoul in June.
Another country which refused to sign the NPT and has applied for NSG membership is India’s nuclear rival Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
Relations between Pakistan and India have continued to remain strained over the disputed territory of Kashmir.