India Narendra Modi African visit
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Tashkent Reuters file photo

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO) in Tashkent. While Beijing has so far been walking a fine line on India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the bilateral talks are to be dominated by the matter.

New Delhi has been pushing for membership of the elite 48-nation bloc in order ease its nuclear trade with other nations but China, along with a few other nations, has been reluctant to allow India as it is not yet a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Modi's imminent talks with the Chinese leader coincide with the NSG plenary meeting in Seoul – where India's membership request is likely to come up. The Indian prime minister is hoping for a breakthrough in his negotiations with Xi which will be reflected in the South Korean capital.

The Modi-Xi discussions are also the culmination of the latest in a series of high-profile meetings between the two sides. India's Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar went on an unannounced trip to Beijing a week ahead of the NSG meeting and he has also headed to Seoul to push India's agenda further.

Shortly ahead of Modi's discussions with Xi, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters during a routine press conference in Beijing: "President Xi is going to meet Prime Minister Modi in Tashkent. We believe that the series of exchanges of visits will deepen our strategic consensus, strategic mutual trust and future development of bilateral relationship."

When pointedly asked about China's position on India's bid to get into the NSG, the spokesperson sidestepped the matter by saying: "We do not believe that it is an issue concerning the bilateral relationship between China and India."

China has repeatedly insisted if India needs to be included in the nuclear trade alliance so should Pakistan as well. This has also prompted appreciation from Pakistan, which thanked Beijing for showing solidarity. Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, cited by local reports, hailed China's position on the matter saying both New Delhi and Islamabad should be included in the NSG simultaneously.