NEW DELHI (TIP): Barring an unpleasant last-minute surprise, India could be accepted as a member in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) next week. One of the world’s top four non-proliferation regimes, the MTCR plenary will be held in Oslo where the Indian application for membership will be considered. The 34-nation grouping takes decisions by consensus.
Since India made a formal application for membership in summer this year, India has worked closely with key countries who have promised to support its membership. If India is accepted in the grouping it would be a huge fillip to its missile and space programmes, even allowing it to export its own technology to member countries. In recent years, MTCR has even assumed oversight regarding non-proliferation of UAVs -ironically, Pakistan, not a member of MTCR, has just developed its own armed drones which it has recently used on its own people.
Accession to MTCR is one of the leftover tasks of the India-US nuclear deal. The US had promised to support India’s membership to all four – Wassenaar Arrangement, Nuclear Suppliers Group and Australia Group, along with MTCR. Initially, Indian diplomatic push was to bundle its membership to all four. The Indian thinking then was India could leverage its candidature all at once rather than lobby separately for all four. However, that thinking underwent a change and the MEA decided to approach all four regimes separately.
It was originally believed that Australia Group would be the easiest to get into. But India still has to harmonize some of its controls on chemicals etc to make the cut. Instead the government has worked hard to harmonize its export control lists, called SCOMET with MTCR regulations. In March 2015, Indian government put in a host of new items on the SCOMET list which would need prior permission before exports and invite strict oversight by government agencies. A second list on military items also served to harmonize export licensing of military stores, a key compliance demand for MTCR. Acceptance to MTCR might make it easier for India to access the other regimes, though no one is in any doubt about how difficult it would be for India to get into the NSG, where China remains opposed. Between the PM, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and even President Pranab Mukherjee, the government has lobbied with all the members of the MTCR in the past year. Officials said Indians have been ready with answers to any question put to them by MTCR members. The US has worked closely as well, lobbying for India, the first time after the nuclear deal waiver at the NSG. In the recently concluded Strategic Dialogue between Swaraj and John Kerry, the joint statement noted, “The US side affirms its support for India’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime at its upcoming plenary, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and in the other global non-proliferation export control regimes.”
China is not a member of the MTCR but has promised to abide by the original 1987 Guidelines and Annexure, but not the subsequent revisions. China has also asked for membership, but China, like Pakistan, is believed to have lax export control systems.
Established in 1987, the MTCR aims to curb the spread of delivery systems like missiles which carry a minimum payload of 500 kg to a distance of a minimum of 300km.