ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has stepped up efforts to get a seat in the Nuclear Supplier Group as arch rival India attempted to outclass Islamabad.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz yesterday telephoned Foreign Ministers of Austria and Turkey – Sebastian Kurz and Mevlut Cavusoglu - to seek support for the NSG membership , the foreign ministry said.

The Advisor has been in contact lately with counterparts from friendly countries to build pressure on the decision-makers to treat Pakistan and India equally. While India was optimistic to win a membership as recent reports said New Delhi will probably have to wait a little longer for induction into the elite NSG.

There were hints India’s application for membership was unlikely to be approved in the June 23 plenary meeting of the NSG in Seoul despite support from the United States.

The US has assured support to India but told New Delhi not to block membership of other countries “influenced by extraneous regional issues.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to NSG members asking them to support India’s bid but urged the NSG member states to “agree not to block consensus on Indian admission” to the group at the Seoul meeting.

The direction in which Kerry pointed to was ostensibly Pakistan and it made the case clear that while the US was supporting India’s candidature at the NSG, Pakistan, too, may still get its backing. India has been lobbying hard to get through to the elite club.

Switzerland, the US and Mexico support India’s bid, a few countries led by China have their objections. India assigned its senior diplomats to countries such as South Africa, Argentina and Austria that have reservations about letting India in.

Sartaj Aziz told the Austria and Turkish foreign ministers that Islamabad’s credentials for the membership of NSG were stronger than India if the 48-nation cartel agreed to form uniform criteria for non-Non Proliferation Treaty states.

Aziz said Pakistan had diplomatically engaged numerous countries over the criteria-based approach for non-NPT countries. He claimed Pakistan has gradually gathered support for the criteria-based approach.

Aziz expressed the hope that due to Pakistan’s efforts and its strong credentials, if India gains entry into the club, Pakistan will not be left behind.

The NSG, which was created in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974, is expected to hold its next meeting in June. The NSG is a 48-nation club dedicated to curbing nuclear arms proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that could foster nuclear weapons development.

Earlier, Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan had firmly conveyed to the US that maintaining effective nuclear deterrence was critical for Pakistan’s security and only Islamabad could determine how it should respond to growing strategic imbalance in South Asia.

He said Islamabad was for balance of power in South Asian as imbalance could be dangerous for the region. “This does not mean we don’t want good ties with the neighbours. We want good relations with India and all other states,” he maintained.

Last week, the foreign ministry’s UN Desk held a briefing in Islamabad for diplomatic missions of NSG-member countries to put forward its argument against India’s membership and to push for its own entry to the elite group.

At the meeting, Pakistan warned that country-specific exemptions could negatively impact strategic stability in South Asia.

Pakistan’s chief supporter China maintains if India, a non-signatory to the NPT, was given membership then Pakistan too should be taken on board.