NSG membership: China rebuts India's stand on France

China today rebutted India's assertion that France was included in the Nuclear Suppliers Group without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, saying France was a founder member of the elite group and so the issue of accepting its membership does not arise.

Ahead of President Pranab Mukherjee's visit, China also called for "in-depth" talks to build consensus over India's admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), days after Pakistan staked claim to join the 48-member grouping with purported backing from Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying sounded firm about China's stance that all new members that join the NSG must sign Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Ms Hua rebutted India's assertion that France was included in the elite group without signing the NPT.

"When France joined the NSG it was not a party to the NPT: France was the founder member of the NSG so the issue of acceptance to the NSG does not exist", Ms Hua said responding to Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup's comment last week.

"The NSG is an ad hoc export control regime and France, which was not an NPT member for some time, was a member of the NSG since it respected NSG's objectives," Mr Swarup had said on May 20, rejecting China's oft-repeated assertion that India should sign the NPT tojoin the NSG.

"The NSG is an important component of the non-proliferation regime is founded on the NPT. This is a long term consensus of the international community which was reaffirmed last year by the NPT review convention," Ms Hua said. That is why the NSG has been taking NPT signatory status must status for new members, Ms Hua said.

The issue was expected to figure in the talks during President Pranab Mukherjee's visit to China from Tuesday.