India was on Friday admitted as the 43rd member of the Australia Group, an informal bloc of countries that keeps a tight control over exports of substances used in the making of chemical weapons.
The move followed the completion of internal procedures of the grouping, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters, adding that “the Australia Group decided to admit India as its 43rd member through a consensus decision".
In a separate briefing, Indian foreign ministry officials said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is travelling to Davos next week for the World Economic Forum, will not meet his Pakistani counterpart, Shaid Khaqan Abbasi, on the sidelines of the event.
With its admission into the Australia Group, India is now part of three of the four key export control groups in the world. This includes the Missile Technology Control Regime—an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries that regulates trade in sensitive equipment and technologies to ensure there is no proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying payloads above 500kg for more than 300km.
Last month, India joined the Wassenaar Arrangement, which is also an informal grouping of 42 countries, exercising control over the export of dual-use goods and technologies.
The only export control group that India is not a part of is the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls the export of sensitive nuclear technologies and equipment, with the aim of preventing nuclear weapons’ proliferation.
India’s entry into this grouping is blocked by China, which opposes the country’s admission on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. China has also sought to link India’s entry with that of Pakistan—seen as a country that has aided regimes like that of North Korea in developing atomic weapon capabilities.
According to Kumar, India’s entry into three of the four export control regimes burnishes its credentials—a reference to the country’s position that it has scrupulously adhered to rules governing non proliferation of sensitive technologies and equipment. “We hope our credentials will be taken into account" when considering India for membership of the NSG, Kumar said.
The spokesman confirmed Friday’s reports by different news channels that Pakistan had fired on Indian positions along the common border. India condemns the ceasefire violation that has caused loss of life and property, he said.
“Pakistan violates the (2003) ceasefire (agreement with India) as a cover to infiltrate terrorists across the border into India. We of course retaliate in such cases and we also take up the matter at appropriate levels with the Pakistani side," Kumar said.
Separately, India on Friday summoned Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner, Syed Haider Shah, and conveyed to him the government’s “grave concerns at the continued ceasefire violations and deliberate targeting of innocent civilians by Pakistan forces", a foreign ministry statement said. “More than 100 such violations have been carried out by Pakistan forces on the Line of Control and the International Border so far during 2018," it said.
Responding to questions on reported Chinese troop buildup and construction activity on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan, which was the site of a 73-day standoff between India and China last year, Kumar said there was no change in position since August when Indian and Chinese troops had pulled back to positions they had been at prior to 16 June, when the standoff started.
According to India, Chinese attempts to construct a road on the Doklam plateau had triggered the face-off in June. Bhutanese troops stationed there objected to the construction but were brushed off by the Chinese troops who had brought in earth-moving equipment for road construction. Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement then intervened to stop the Chinese which sparked the prolonged tensions between India and China.