By Gaurav Sharma
Beijing, June 21 (IANS) China, which has repeatedly blocked India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), on Friday said New Delhi's membership was not on the agenda of the plenary session of the bloc in Astana.
Beijing also said it cannot "predict" how long it will take to say "yes" to India's entry into the grouping.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also sought to clarify that it was not "blocking" India's entry into the NSG but just going by the rules and procedures of the 48-member grouping that regulates global nuclear trade.
"As far as I know, this plenary session is being held and there will be discussions on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) non-parties participation and the political and legal issues concerning that," Ministry's spokesperson Lu Kang said here about the two-day meeting in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.
"Before reaching a specific plan, the NSG will not discuss the participation of certain NPT non-party. So there is no discussion on India's participation," Lu said replying to a question if Beijing will change its stance on the issue.
"I want to say that there is no blocking by certain members because there are procedures at the NSG and members make decisions according to the procedures."
China opposes India's entry into the bloc, citing its non-signatory status to the NPT, a prerequisite for the membership.
Except for China, all major countries, including the US, have supported India's berth at the grouping where gaining entry requires the approval of all 48 members.
Entry into the NSG will give India better access to low-cost, clean nuclear energy -- important for its economic growth.
Beijing argues that if India can be let in why not its ally Pakistan, which is also a non-signatory to the NPT. Islamabad applied for the membership of the NSG a week after India applied for it in 2016.
Explaining China's stance, Lu said: "The NSG is a non-proliferation mechanism, multilaterally and there are certain rules and procedures and all members must follow the rules and procedures. And the decisions must be based on consensus.
"The entry of India and any other country I believe is an internal affair of the NSG to discuss this. So we are doing this totally in accordance with the rules and procedures within this mechanism.
"As for the plan, you said, we need more consultation and we cannot predict whether it will be one year, two years or any time period to have consensus, but the decision must be based on consensus," Lu added.
He was replying to a question about how long it will take to decide on India's membership.
Asked if there was any progress on the bilateral dialogue on the issue, Lu said: "I don't have any specific information but as I know, the department chief in charge of this in the Foreign Ministry has exchanged views with his Indian counterpart on disarmament, non-proliferation, security situation and other aspects.
"As you asked many questions, I would like to add something. In the NSG meetings and in the working group meetings, we have said that China position is not to target any country.
"Our goal is to uphold non-proliferation and the NPT which is the cornerstone of the arms control system," Lu added.