India PM Modi heads to Uzbekistan to woo China’s Xi

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping this week on the sidelines of a summit in Uzbekistan, the Indian foreign ministry said Wednesday, seeking China’s backing for India’s entry into a nuclear trade group.

India wants to become a member of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to get better access to low-cost, clean nuclear energy — important for its economic growth.

While several countries including the United States and France have publicly backed India’s quest to join the NSG, China, which has not yet supported the bid, is seen as the biggest obstacle.

A senior foreign ministry official confirmed Modi would meet Xi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent, which starts Thursday.

The SCO is a six-nation group comprising China, Russia and Central Asian countries focused on regional energy and security issues.

The timing could be critical, as the NSG on Thursday begins a two-day meeting in Seoul, where India’s application may come up for discussion — with a last-minute backing from China potentially a powerful factor.

“Our Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar is already in Seoul to closely monitor the NSG meet while our PM holds key bilateral meetings with the Chinese and Russian Presidents on the SCO sidelines,” the foreign ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Modi has ramped up his bid to get into the NSG this month, undertaking a multi-nation trip to court key countries including the US, Switzerland and Mexico.

India is also hoping to join the SCO at the summit in Tashkent, which could help it gain access to deals in energy-rich Central Asia and boost its regional security cooperation. -AFP