WASHINGTON: The United States and India on Tuesday sent out a clear signal to China in course of talks between President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi: No one country should dominate the Asia-Pacific region, and Beijing will have to live with the presence of the United States, India, and their allies and friends in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean region.
Ahead of the bilateral meeting, the two sides disclosed that India had cleared all hurdles to become a member of the 34-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a non-proliferation regime of which China is not a member. Monday was the deadline for any member to object to a new entrant, and none had.
A senior US administration official confirmed that a political consensus had been achieved to admit India to the MTCR and the entry pending some technical issues was a mere formality. It was Washington’s “strong objective” to facilitate India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group during its plenary later this month, he added.
Because MTCR members also constitute the core of the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the message to Beijing was clear: New Delhi has the support of the majority, possibly all of the NSG members, except that of China, which is blocking India’s membership with a spurious bid to also get Pakistan, a known proliferator, into the club.
En route to the US, Prime Minister Modi obtained unqualified support from Switzerland for the NSG membership and post-Washington, he is expected to get support from Mexico. President Obama too reaffirmed US support publicly.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, Modi publicly expressed gratitude for Obama’s support for New Delhi’s membership to both the MTCR and NSG clubs as they broke for a brief interaction with the media before repairing for a working lunch, when they were joined by their delegations to continue deliberations.
In as much as the talks spanned across a gamut of bilateral issues, China is widely seen as the elephant – or dragon – in the room, given the profound consequences of its muscle-flexing in the Asia-Pacific region on trade, commerce, energy supply in an area that is home to 60 per cent of the world’s population.