India’s entry to MTCR: A classic case of “Policy of Prestige”
One of the cherished goals of any foreign policy is often to secure, maintain and enhance the prestige of the country. In the diplomatic parlance, it is called doctrine of ‘policy of prestige’. Morgenthau says, “the policy of prestige is the third of the basic manifestations of the struggle for power on the international scene.” A nation always seeks prestige in international relations.
India’s entry in to MTCR did not create any ripples in the media and the news went almost unnoticed in the wake of a much hyped news of India’s failure of getting entry into the elite NSG, the vanguard of non proliferation.
It is as an intrinsic element of the relations between nations as the desire for prestige is of the relation between individuals or groups. However, the policy of prestige characterises the foreign policy of a nation which seeks to secure its interest by the demonstration of power in international relations.
“The policy of prestige is the policy of demonstrating the power a nation has or thinks it has or wants other nations to believe it has.” The purpose of such a policy is “to impress other nations with the power one’s own nation actually possesses, or with the power it believe or wants the other nations to believe it possesses.”
V.V. Dyke, in his book, ‘International Relation’, discusses in detail the nature of the Policy of Prestige by examining the meaning of the term Prestige. “The prestige of a nation in world affairs is sometimes thought of simply as its reputation for power.” Dyke quotes Charles Burton Marshall to support the above view of prestige. “Prestige is the faculty enabling a great to avoid final, miserable choices between surrender and war. Prestige is the ingredient of authority in international affairs. It can be defined as “reputation for reflects and suggests authority of importance of ascendancy”.
A press release of Ministry of External Affairs dated June 27, 2016 says “India has joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) this morning. The MTCR point of contact in Paris has conveyed the decision regarding India’s accession to regime through the Embassy of France in New Delhi as well as the Embassies of Netherland and Luxembourg”. The press release also thanked 34 MTCR partners for their support and said “India’s entry in to the regime as its 35th member would be mutually beneficial in the furtherance of International non – proliferation objectives”.
The MTCR is not a treaty and does not impose any legally binding obligations on Partners (members).
India’s entry in to MTCR did not create any ripples in the media and the news went almost unnoticed in the wake of a much hyped news of India’s failure of getting entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the vanguard of non proliferation. Earlier the news of India’s manoeuvre and China’s contestation to the entry generated a huge interest for everybody from the drawing rooms of ordinary citizen to the high echelons of political parties.
It was seen as a litmus test of Prime Minister Modi’s globetrotting diplomacy. However the experts on world politics and international organisations would candidly admit that neither India’s failure to get entry into NSG makes a big news nor does India’s entry to MTCR. India may be seeking the membership of these clubs more because of their resplendence and the doctrine of ‘Policy of Prestige’ than by any other strategic concerns. Sovereign countries do join or leave international groups and organisations as a routine. The Brexit from European Union is a recent example.
MTCR is not that sought after ‘elite club’ and not many countries are applying either for its membership. A case to the point is that Pakistan has no plans in the near future to sign MTCR. The NEWS has quoted Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for foreign affairs that “Pakistan would not sign in any undue haste since it would study its all aspects before taking any decision”. He further added “Pakistan does not need it for the time being”.
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an informal political understanding among States that seek to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology. The MTCR is not a treaty and does not impose any legally binding obligations on Partners (members). The MTCR Guidelines are the common export control policy adhered to by the MTCR Partners, and to which all countries are encouraged to adhere unilaterally. The Guidelines define the purpose of the MTCR and provide the overall structure and rules to guide the member countries and those adhering unilaterally to the Guidelines.
India has serious technological deficiencies to develop this indigenously. It believes that its MTCR partners would help in the development and manufacturing of this drone.
There are no legally binding obligations imposed on MTCR Partners. The Partners are expected to act responsibly and practice restraint with regard to exports of items that could contribute to the proliferation of missiles capable of delivering WMD and to abide by all consensus decisions of the Regime. Partners also are expected to control all exports of equipment and technology controlled on the MTCR Annex according to the stipulations of the MTCR Guidelines.
The above provisions would make it even harder for India to sell the BrahMos Missiles to other countries. Most of the countries who could be the prospective buyers of this cruise missiles are not MTCR members and now India having become a member of MTCR, it will have to make and execute much stricter export policies. More so over, the BrahMose Missiles, under 300 km threshold was not within the MTCR’s annex of items. Had India not been the member of MTCR, it would have sold the BrahMos Missiles easily. Now India has to abide by the MTCR guidelines and as such contrary to some media reports, the BrahMos Missiles export prospects have been hit.
There are high expectations that the MTCR membership will allow India to procure high end missile technology but that remains to be seen. But the MTCR Guidelines do not distinguish between exports to Partners and exports to non-Partners. Moreover, the MTCR Partners have explicitly affirmed that membership in the Regime provides no entitlement to obtain technology from another Partner and no obligation to supply it. Partners are expected to exercise appropriate accountability and restraint in trade among Partners, just as they would in trade between Partners and non-Partners.
India has sent a letter of request to the United States seeking to purchase patrol drones for protection and vigilance of its maritime assets in the Indian Ocean. MTCR membership also holds the promises for development or the procurement of high altitude long endurance drones that can be deployed in Siachen Sector. India has serious technological deficiencies to develop this indigenously. It believes that its MTCR partners would help in the development and manufacturing of this drone.
…by joining MTCR and attempting to enter NSG, India seems to have come out of the anachronism called ‘hesitations of history’ and pursued the ‘policy of prestige’ on the world stage…
Besides, India has high hopes of buying ‘Arrow II’ theatre missile defense interceptor from Israel as a part of Indian Ballistic Missile Defence programme. There is a substantial technological inputs of United States in building the Israeli interceptor. Israel cannot sell this to India without American express consent and they would want India in MTCR as a condition to facilitate such transfer. There is one more rider.
The MTCR guidelines is that the Partners are bound by a “no-undercut” policy to consult each other before considering exporting an item on the list that has been notified as denied by another Partner pursuant to the MTCR Guidelines. This means that if in past such a technology was denied to India by any MTCR members, getting the same through the recently acquired membership will attract the above provision. It will be a matter of curiosity as to when India is able to get access to this technology .
As stated in the beginning, ‘Policy of Prestige’ is a part of the foreign policy of each nation. In its search for greatness, glory and recognition in international relations each nation uses the demonstration of power as a means. Such a means can indeed be quite helpful for this purpose.
However, success can be achieved only when policy of prestige is backed by adequate power. When a nation seeks to gain disproportionately large reputation for power, the policy of prestige takes the form of bluff. Somehow by joining MTCR and attempting to enter NSG, India seems to have come out of the anachronism called ‘hesitations of history’ and pursued the ‘policy of prestige’ on the world stage and generated a bit of excitement to the domestic constituencies.