NEW DELHI: India’s seemingly aggressive diplomacy that dissolved into a whimper has done her more damage than probably this Ministry of External Affairs is capable of admitting. The bluster on display before and during the NSG Seoul meet, was even more evident after New Delhi’s plea for membership was summarily rejected with news plants targeting the “one country” that had stood in the way.

A run down of the NSG vote was covered in the earlier

Finger pointing and that too in public is unheard of in diplomacy, but the churlish briefings to the media seemed to have lost all sight of this basic tenet of foreign policy. All fingers were pointed at China, as coming in the way of India’s ambitions. Other member nations kept their heads over these increasingly murky waters both in and outside the NSG meeting, and clearly no single country was friend enough to join New Delhi’s anti-China tirade. Beside the impact of this ‘China threat’ propaganda that serves as a red rag for Beijing will only be felt in the coming weeks and months. The Dragon,as foreign policy experts know, takes time but does not ignore or forgive slights.

There were some untruths, white lies and distortions woven into the MEA narrative fed to the media. Either than, or the Foreign Office has lost its ability to understand nuances that have led to it virtually breaking ranks with BRICS over this issue, with China, South Africa, Brazil taking an open position against India’s application, and Russia hunkering down with neither a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ that in the current context really amounted to a negative.

There was clearly some amateur thinking here that the NSG would overcome the NPT hurdle, and be won over by New Delhi’s charm to admit it into the exclusive club. How? Was the question never really answered with selecting information being handed out for an ignorant media to consume. Voices that tried to counter this with the factual information that China was not going to agree as its statements had clearly shown, that without a consensus the membership would not happen, were drowned in the excitement of the other narrative.

BRICS was hit in the process as well, with South Africa, Brazil and China standing together against India’s membership. Russia was neutral that means not for India in reality with New Delhi failing to even move its allies to at least change into a neutral mode on this front. Has this something to do with the coziness visible,and increasingly so, in the relations between India, the US, Japan and Australia. That is clearly seen as a threat by China that has hinted at this several times, with India’s strategy being mentioned more firmly by Beijing during the NSG stand off at any time before.

MEA, for inexplicable reasons, refused to recognise the writing on the wall, kept misreading the signals and let loose a media campaign based on obfuscation and briefings that were not based on strict facts. After the vote it becomes a little simpler to point to the difference between the Indian Foreign Office ‘facts’ and the facts that emerged from the NSG vote:

Sample the following:

1. False: India stands a good chance of becoming a NSG member;

True: It cannot become a member as the NSG operates on consensus and at least nine if not more member nations of the 48 were actively opposed to India’s application.

2.False: Criteria would be replaced with credentials, as NSG had waved the criteria clause for India way back in 2008;

True: The NSG remained clear that no such waiver had been passed.That the issue as China spelt out rested with the criteria guiding the organisation. And at the end of the Seoul meeting issued a statement that was categorical and hard: “Participating Governments reiterated their firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime.”

3.False: Switzerland and Mexico had agreed to support India’s bid for the NSG membership after PM Modi air dashed to these capitals to woo the respective governments.

True: Both Switzerland and Mexico remained opposed to relaxing the criteria to include non-NPT countries like India.This has been the overriding feedback from the Seoul meet, embodied in the statement reflecting the consensus within.

4.False: the US is pushing India’s case. So is Russia. And China will agree

True: the US did not overreach itself on this issue, and remained positive without a push. Russia went into the neither here nor there mode, making it very clear however that it would not join the sniping against China. China despite the meeting with PM Modi on the sidelines of SCO at Tashkent refused to budge.

5. False: the idea that China could be ‘persuaded’ to change its stand.

True: China had been direct and clear right from the beginning. Every single statement from Beijing confirmed that it was not going to give an inch on this issue. The Indian Foreign Office that brings a sophistication of experience to understanding China surely would have known this from almost the very beginning. But there was no indication of this knowledge in its diplomacy or its media briefings.

At the end of the day the decibels raised to fever pitch have become inaudible. There is no explanation from MEA, no clarification. This episode is over, on to the next. But given the fact that the target for India shifted---rather dramatically so--- from Pakistan to China is perhaps the biggest foreign policy takeaway from the NSG controversy, as the impact of this will be felt.