Multilateral Export Control Regimes : Need of Membership for India

Introduction

The security of the nation - both internal and external- as well as scientific development, requires access to the latest technologies from all around the globe. These are often protected by various national laws and international conventions. There are multilateral groups of like-minded nations that exercise regulatory control over the distribution of such technologies. These are part of the multilateral export control regimes. They may extend to all kinds of technologies - electronic, chemical, biological and even nuclear.

Which are the multilateral export control regimes that are important for India?

There are four such regimes in the world today. All of these hold significant importance for India:

  • The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.

  • The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), for the control of nuclear related technology.

  • The Australia Group (AG) for control of chemical and biological technology that could be weaponized.

  • The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) for the control of rockets and other aerial vehicles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction,

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Wassenaar Arrangement

It is a multilateral export control regime (MECR) that promotes transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilizing accumulations. Dual-use refers to the ability of a good or technology to be used for multiple purposes - usually peaceful and military. It has 42 member states comprising mostly NATO and EU states. The participating nations have to ensure that transfer under the Wassenaar Arrangement do not lead to undermining of the goals of the regime. It is a successor to the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls from the Cold War era. The Wassenaar Arrangement has control lists that document the dual-use goods and technologies. These lists are updated regularly. Decisions are taken on the basis of consensus.

Multilateral Export Control Regimes Wassenaar Arrangement

Membership to this MECR requires fulfillment of certain criteria:

  • Be a producer or exporter of arms or sensitive industrial equipment

  • Maintain non-proliferation policies and appropriate national policies, including adherence to:

  • Non-proliferation policies, such as (where applicable) the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Australia Group

  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and, where applicable, START I (including the Lisbon Protocol)

 

  • Maintain fully effective export controls

 

India was inducted to the Wassenaar Arrangement on 7 December, 2017 as the 42nd member. Note that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty though it supports nuclear non-proliferation.

Missile Technology Control Regime

It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying greater than 500 kg payload for more than 300 km. The members are thus prohibited from supplying such missile and UAV systems that are controlled by the MTCR to non-members. The decisions are taken by consensus of all the members.

Multilateral Export Control Regimes Missile Technology Control Regime

The MTCR has had limited success in reducing the proliferation of missile and UAV technology with several non-members gaining access to said technologies with the aid of members. It is supplemented by the Hague Code of Conduct, 2002 (International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation) which has a larger membership and lower restrictions on technology proliferation.

India was inducted to the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016 as the 35th member.

Australia Group

The Australia Group is an informal group of countries established in 1985 to help member countries to identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons. It was established in the aftermath of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1984. It has 42 members (including the European Commission). The members work on a consensus basis. The annual meeting is held in Paris, France.

Multilateral Export Control Regimes Australia Group

The Australia Group has a list of 54 compounds that are identified as needing regulation in trade. This list is wider than the one under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

India is not a member of the Australia Group.

Nuclear Suppliers Group

It is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. The NSG came into being as a response to the 1974 nuclear tests by India. There is a Trigger List, items on which can only be exported to non-nuclear states if certain safeguards are followed. It has 48 participating governments. China is a member of the NSG but not of the Wassenaar Arrangement or the MTCR.

Multilateral Export Control Regimes Nuclear Suppliers Group

India is not a member of the NSG. Its membership is often seen through the lens of it being a non-signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. China has also clubbed India's membership bid with that of Pakistan for entry into NSG.

What benefits does India get from being a member of a Multilateral export control regime?

The membership of a multilateral export control regime is beneficial for India due to the following reasons:

  1. It would open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology from member nations for use in peaceful purposes like its space programme under the MTCR.

  2. India can export the most advanced UAVs for use in security and counter-terrorism purposes under the MTCR for example, the Predator drone from the USA.

  3. The range of the Brahmos missile can be extended beyond the 300km that it has been limited to under the MTCR.

  4. India will be a part of the rule-making system and will not only adhere to the rules but have a say in their formulation.

  5. The membership of a MECR strengthens India's claim to membership of other MECRs especially the Nuclear Suppliers Group where its entry has been blocked for quite some time.

  6. It will allow India to ensure that the waiver due to the Indo-US 123 Agreement (Civil nuclear agreement) stays and is not modified. This can only be done if India becomes a member of the NSG.

  7. The membership of the MECRs also shows that India is a mature and responsible nation and strengthens its bid for other major reforms in the international order like reform of the UNSC.

  8. The fact that India was made a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement even though it is not a signatory to the Nuclear NPT shows the strict adherence to non-proliferation that India has maintained.

  9. It would allow access to dual-use goods and technologies under the Wassenaar Arrangement.

  10. Also, it gives strategic significance to India's stance as now India is a member of the MTCR and the WA while China lacks membership of both. This will allow India a better bargaining chip in its quest to gain a position in the NSG.

Conclusion

Multilateral export control regimes today form significant decision making bodies in the global rules-based order. Membership to these not only allows greater technology and material access but enhances the credibility of a nation as a responsible member of the world order. India is poised to become a significant player in the world and thus requires a voice in these MECRs to further its claim as a rising power.

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