Journalist | Writer | Analyst
Vienna: The Nuclear Suppliers Group is about to resume its discussions this morning on the American proposal to grant India an exemption for its restrictive trading rules. When I checked 10 minutes ago, the Indian delegation was cautiously upbeat, hinting that this story might well have a happy ending by the evening.
There have been overnight efforts by the Indians and Americans to speak to some of the countries still holding out, including China. An Indian TV channel is reporting a possible Bush-Hu phone conversation on India but there has been no official announcement of this yet, nor a confirmation of this from any other news source.
Initial reports I am getting from diplomats from countries without a dog in the fight (think former Soviet Bloc in the widest sense) suggests we be cautious in analysing the precise role China is playing since both the Americans and the nonproliferation lobby have an incentive to spin this story for reasons of their own. I know the Chinese are being negative from three sources, including two who were in the meeting. The third was an Indian official who has getting virtually real-time information from inside the meeting. My stories in today’s Hindu reflect this. But what happened late last night? Did the meeting “break up” after a Chinese walk-out, as some reports have suggested? Consider this:
“May be [the Chinese] were a bit impatient at the delay last night but there was no demarche or walkout. Some [members of] of their delegation left early, as did many officials from many countries, but I can confirm the presence of Chinese colleagues in the small working groups till the time our work ended just after 1:30 a.m.”
Thus spake one of these diplomats in a chat with me this morning.
I must say that none of the 30-odd journalists who had staked out the Andromeda Tower where the NSG is meeting (in the 27th floor offices of the Japanese mission to the U.N.) — including me — saw anything resembling a group of Chinese diplomats leaving the building (in a huff or otherwise) around 0045 as some reports today are saying.
So while the Chinese remain a problem area, I think we need to be mindful of spin. The Americans would like India to believe the Chinese are the main villains here. And the non-pro wallahs would like to boost their own thinning ranks by bandwagoning with Beijing. Both narratives are perhaps accurate, and the Chinese have acted fiendishly but astutely in playing their hand so late. However, the binding constraint today is Ireland-New Zealand-Austria, and not China. If the three yield, you can be sure Beijing will not want to be part of a Gang of One. Not for any reason other than that the political cost in terms of bilateral relations with India would be enormous. A Chinese veto will ensure the one thing Beijing says it doesn’t want — an Indo-American alliance.