Membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) cannot be given by countries to each other as a "farewell gift", China has told the US. The remarks follow US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal's, comments that China is an "outlier" on the issue of India's NSG membership bid.

China is opposing India's inclusion in the NSG because the latter is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology across the world.

Other than China, India's membership bid has the backing of almost all nations in the 48-member group, including the US, France, the UK, Russia, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.

"Clearly there is one outlier that needs to be addressed and that is China," Biswal said recently.

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing in Beijing: "Regarding India's application to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, regarding non-NPT countries admission to the NSG, we have made our position clear before so I will not repeat it.

"I just want to point out that NSG membership shall not be some kind of (a) farewell gift for countries to give to each other," Hua was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying.

China reportedly wants the NSG members to finalise a plan on admitting non-NPT signatories to the group and have discussions and deliberations on particular cases.

India's application for membership has lapsed after two technical holds by China. On whether China will re-think India's membership bid if the country applies again this year, Hua said: "China raised the technical hold to give more space for deliberation and consultation.

"It is a regret that no consensus has been reached so far. We need more consensus and more time for deliberation so as to reach a consensus.

"We need more time for deliberations so as to reach a consensus and the committee will follow relevant resolutions and rules of procedure. We will remain in touch with relevant parties on this," she added.

Pakistan, another non-NPT signatory, had also applied for NSG membership after India, and China is reportedly considering the request.