Ever since Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s fourth visit to the United States of America a fortnight back, India’s membership of Missile Control Technology Regime (MTCR) and its push to get into the elite club of Nuclear Suppliers Group ( NSG), has continued to hog headlines, both in the print as also in the electronic media.
India’s quest and claim for a seat as permanent member of the United Nations Security Council will only get legitimised and strengthened if it becomes a part of various elite clubs of the world…
Needless to say, India’s assessment centres around the fact that its quest and claim for a seat as permanent member of the United Nations Security Council will only get legitimised and strengthened if it becomes a part of various elite clubs of the world, which decide on crucial issues of international affairs. Becoming a member of MTCR as also of NSG, besides having other strategic implications is, therefore, a logical objective of our strategic planners.
Any country wishing to become a member of the MTCR can only achieve that status if a consensus emerges among the existing member states about granting such membership to the new entrant. The United State’s own policy has been that any country which is not recognised as a nuclear-weapon state (which includes India) must do away with ballistic missiles with a capacity of 500 kg payload and a range of at least 300 km. But as on many other issues, the U.S. in 1998, made an exception for its new found ally, Ukraine, which possessed Scud missiles, falling well within these parameters.
Again in October 2012, it made another exception, permitting its other ally in South East Asia, South Korea, to keep its ballistic missiles with 800-km range and 500-kg payload. Such an exception ensured that South Korea could target all of North Korea, whose belligerence has only increased lately under their young dictator.
The declaration made during PM Modi’s last visit to the U.S., that the path for India to become member of the MTCR has been cleared, points to the fact that even in case of India the U.S. seems to have made a similar exception, i.e., allowing it retain its missile arsenal. Therefore, whenever the next MTCR Plenary meeting takes place, India’s membership should come through formally. It may be mentioned that the last MTCR Plenary meeting was held in Rotterdam in October 2015.
Though membership of MTCR does not bestow any specific/special concessions on its members, yet India hopes that such membership will assist it to persuade the Americans to consider exporting Reaper and Hawk UAVs…
However, India has to ensure that its national policy governing the export of these missiles is in place. The list of the arsenal includes ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, space launch vehicles, drones, remotely piloted vehicles, sounding rockets, and their components. Exports of these missiles are placed under two distinct categories.
Category I basically controls the exports of complete products and major sub-systems and are, therefore, very rare. The guidelines regulating these exports clearly instruct the members that ‘there will be strong presumption to deny transfers’.
Category II oversees materials, technologies and components which generally have civilian applications. Despite the fact that their transfers can be done more easily, enough caution is required to be exercised at each level to ensure that such exports meet the MTCR guidelines.
Though membership of MTCR does not bestow any specific/special concessions on its members, yet India hopes that such membership will assist it to persuade the Americans to consider exporting Reaper and Hawk UAVs, which fall into Category I, as explained above. Both these UAVs have played a significant role in counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The U.S has so far sold these drones to only its most trusted Trans- Atlantic ally, i.e., Great Britain, though the unarmed versions of these drones have been made available to Italy and South Korea too.
Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran acquired ballistic missile technology from China without any of them ever having been members of the MTCR.
The US is faced with another dilemma as countries like Israel, Russia and China are working on advance technologies to produce similar products. These countries will then emerge as serious competitors to sell these weapon systems. Therefore, the U.S. has been thinking for some time to make necessary changes in the existing rules that govern the exports of such weapon systems. Aware of these developments, India feels that by becoming a member of the MTCR, it will head the queue for purchase of these state of the art drones legitimately, when these are made available through market mechanism as per the applicable rules.
It may be mentioned that companies producing these drones or other MTCR controlled weapon systems cannot sell these illegally as the U.S. law mandates imposing sanctions on such companies. In such cases, the sanctioned entity can’t sign contracts, buy arms and receive aid for two years or more.
It may be worthwhile asking, “Does the MTCR actually stop the spread of missile technology”? The answer is, “Yes and NO.” On examination, we know that North Korea, Iran and Pakistan acquired ballistic missile technology from China without any of them ever having been members of the MTCR. No specific or general sanctions could be imposed on China by the MTCR. However, the U.S. did impose technology sanctions on China on its own and the latter clearly began to feel the pinch of these sanctions some years later. China’s announcement in November 2000, that it would stop exporting ballistic missile technology clearly pointed to its feeling the heat of these sanctions.
Subsequently, in 2004, China applied for MTCR membership, which was denied as there persisted a widespread suspicion that some companies in China were secretly supplying technology to North Korea.
India assumes a bigger profile as a fast developing economy with well established democratic traditions, it is only natural for it to seek a bigger role for itself in world affairs.
MTCR has also had the desired effect when many other countries abandoned their missile programmes because of the pressure built by this regime. As an example, Argentina, Egypt and Iraq, who were jointly working on Condor II ballistic missile programme, abandoned it midway. Similarly, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan too shelved their missile / space launch vehicle programmes. Poland and the Czech Republic destroyed their ballistic missiles completely.
It is quite possible that China may now seek to strike a bargain by seeking an entry to the MTCR and in return letting India get into the NSG, where it can exercise a veto.
As India assumes a bigger profile as a fast developing economy with well established democratic traditions, it is only natural for it to seek a bigger role for itself in world affairs. The U.S. seems to have come on board for it to help India realize its potential, but stiff challenges still remain.