What are the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group? How do these elite regimes control the export of weapons and transfer of weapons technologies? Why does membership in them matter to India? How far is the NSG for India now?
Addressing the two Houses of Parliament on the first day of the Budget session on Monday, President Ram Nath Kovind said, “Subsequent to inclusion in the Missile Technology Control Regime last year, India has (now) been inducted as a member in the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group… This success has come after a long wait and with prolonged efforts, and is an important achievement of my government.”
Missile Technology Control Regime
Established in 1987, MTCR is an “informal political understanding among states that seek to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology”. It has 35 members. India was admitted in June 2016. China is not a member. MTCR’s initial aim of controlling proliferation of nuclear missiles was expanded in 1992 to include delivery systems for chemical and biological weapons as well. It encourages members not to export missiles delivering any weapon of mass destruction, with special focus on missiles capable of carrying a 500-kg payload over at least 300 km, and on equipment, software, technology for such systems.
According to Arms Control Association, a US based group, MTCR members are supposed “to establish national export control policies” for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, space launch vehicles, drones, remotely piloted vehicles, sounding rockets, their components and technologies. The regime’s guidelines say “there will be a strong presumption to deny” exports of “Category I” items, which include complete missiles and rockets, major sub-systems, and production facilities. “Category II” exports — specialised materials, technologies, propellants, and sub-components for missiles and rockets — some of which also have civilian uses, are less severe. MTCR is a voluntary regime, places no legal obligations on its members, and has no enforcement mechanism. It is clear that exports to fellow members are not treated differently from exports to non-members
India’s main benefit from membership is that it burnishes its image as a non-proliferator, thereby making it easier for other missile-making countries to export to India. India is the only one of the four unrecognised nuclear powers (the others are Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) that is a member of MTCR.
The Australia Group (AG) is “an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. According to its website, the principal objective of AG members is to use licensing measures to restrict exports of certain chemicals, biological agents, and dual-use chemical and biological manufacturing facilities and equipment that could contribute to the proliferation of CBWs. It has 43 members; India was admitted as a participant on January 19 this year. China is not a member of the AG.
Members commit to prevent spread of CBW proliferation, including being a party, in good standing, to Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention; being a manufacturer/exporter/transshipper of AG-controlled items; and having an effective export control system with legal penalties and sanctions built in. The obligations are not legally binding: “the effectiveness of the cooperation depends solely on a shared commitment to CBW non-proliferation goals and the strength of their respective national measures,” says the AG website. Members must adhere to the AG Common Control Lists, which include chemical weapons precursors; dual-use chemical manufacturing facilities and equipment, and related technology and software; dual-use biological equipment, and related technology and software; human and animal pathogens and toxins; and plant pathogens.
According to India’s ambassador to UN Conference on Disarmament, Amandeep Singh Gill, membership would help “strengthen supply chain security in the dynamic industry fields of biotechnology and chemicals”, along with meeting non-proliferation objectives. Place in AG will strengthen case for NSG membership.
Named after a suburb in The Hague where it was first agreed upon in 1995, the Wassenaar Arrangement came into existence a year later. It aims to promote “transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies”, so there are no “destabilising accumulations”, and terrorists do not acquire them. It has 42 members; India was admitted as a “participating state” on December 8, 2017. Members must be producers/exporters of arms/sensitive industrial equipment; have national polices for non-proliferation and an effective export control regime; must adhere to global non-proliferation compacts including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Wassenaar Arrangement requires participating states to apply export controls to all items in the Wassenaar “Control List” and the “Munitions List”, with the objective of preventing unauthorised transfers or re-transfers of those items. Participating states must also exchange information “to assist in developing common understandings of transfer risks”. They must report their arms transfers and transfers/denials of certain dual-use goods and technologies to countries outside the Arrangement on a six-monthly basis. In order to do all this, members agree to “guidelines, elements and procedures” as a basis for decision-making through their own national legislation and policies.
India’s admittance despite being a non-signatory of the NPT has been seen as a sign of its growing nuclear legitimacy. Membership of the Wassenaar Arrangement is, along with membership of MTCR and Australia Group, three-fourths of the way into the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. India’s application was supported by Russia, France, the US and UK.