India set to be in missile regime, thanks to Italy

NEW DELHI (TIP): If New Delhi went past the last hurdle in its bid to get into the Missile Technology Control Regime, it was largely due to recent upturn in India-Italy ties.

Italy has been lobbying against India’s bid to enter the MTCR over the past several months. Rome’s relations with New Delhi had turned sour over the past four years following arrest of two Italian marines in India. This came in the way of India’s bid to win support of Italy for admission into the MTCR, which controls global trade in missiles and missile technology.

The MTCR had set June 7 as the deadline for its members to formally submit its objections to proposed admission of India.

But amid recent signs of a thaw between India and Italy, Rome chose not to formally convey its objection to the French government, which has been serving as a point-of-contact for the MTCR since its inception.

The MTCR is one of the four export control regimes India has been trying to enter ever since it inked the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with US in 2008, the others being Nuclear Suppliers Group, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group.

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India on May 12 last applied for membership of the NSG, but is facing strong opposition from China. The NSG controls global nuclear trade.

That China is not a member of the MTCR also made India’s entry to the cartel easier, compared to its move for an NSG berth.

India, however, is yet to seek membership of the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group, which too did not include China.

The Wassenaar Arrangement controls global commerce of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies, while the Australian Group governs international trade of materials used to make chemical and biological weapons.

As the deadline passed on Tuesday without any formal objection from any of the MTCR’s 34 members, India’s entry to the cartel now appears to be a fait accompli.

The breakthrough came just 10 days after Italian Navy sergeant Salvatore Girone returned home. Girone and his colleague Massimiliano Latorre were arrested four years back for killing two fishermen of Kerala off the southern coast of India on February 12, 2012. The Supreme Court eased the bail conditions of Girone, who was staying in Italian Embassy in New Delhi, and allowed him to go home after noting that the government of India had no objection to the relaxation.

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