Can’t link India’s case for NSG with Pak: Russia

NEW DELHI: Even as China continues to stall India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership, Russia has come out strongly in support of India saying that India’s application cannot be “interlinked” with that of Pakistan and that Moscow is discussing the issue with Beijing at different levels. China has favoured a criteria-based approach for expansion of the 48-member group, which controls international nuclear commerce, instead of one based on merit, in what India sees an attempt to draw a false equivalence between India’s case and Pakistan’s.

The issue again came up for discussion on Wednesday as Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov met foreign secretary S Jaishankar. “We recognise that at the moment there is no unanimity on Pakistan’s application and that the same cannot be interlinked with India’s,” said Ryabkov, after his meeting with Jaishankar.

This is probably the first time that a top Russian diplomat has publicly drawn attention to the futility of juxtaposing the 2 cases. “We know about the difficulties involved but unlike some other countries, who only speak, we are making practical efforts…we are discussing it with China at different levels,” he added. Earlier this year, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had said that India had approached Russia to convince China to drop its opposition to India’s membership.

That Moscow doesn’t expect China to relent though without a concerted effort from all member states was evident from Ryabkov’s remark that he found the politicisation of the issue unfortunate and that other nations needed to play a more positive role for India’s membership. He didn’t name these nations though. Significantly, as he backed India’s case for membership of all export control regimes, Ryabkov said that he expected India to join The Wassenaar Arrangement as early as Thursday. The 41-nation group, of which China is not a member, deals with export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.

While Ryabkov admitted that Russia was looking to build ties with Pakistan, a country he described as taking great interest in multilateral forums, he said Russia had no “hidden agenda” in its dealings with Islamabad. “I can assure you that Russia’s ties with no country in the world will come at the expense of its relationship with India,” said Ryabkov.

On the issue of cross-border terrorism, Ryabkov said a very “forceful” message had been sent out at the Brics summit in Xiamen this year and that international and pragmatic cooperation was required to defeat those individuals who were operating outside of their countries. For India, the big takeaway from the Xiamen Declaration was the naming of Pakistan based terror groups like LeT and JeM. This exercise was at least partly undone by China later though when it blocked a UN ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar. Ryabkov said though that India’s “very firm and convincing” position on terrorism was yielding fruits and that this was evident from the message in Xiamen.

On the issue of North Korea, which too was discussed between the two countries, Ryabkov reiterated Russia’s position that there was no alternative to a political “track” for resolving the issues and that all parties needed to show restraint. “We don’t believe there is place for more sanctions on North Korea,” said Ryabkov, adding that there were commonalities in the position taken by both Russia and India. As Swaraj said recently, India believes that some channels of communication with Pyongyang should remain open.

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