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Published: 19th Jun, 2017

A Multilateral Export Control Regime (MECR) is an international body that states use to organize their national export control systems. There are currently four such regimes:

• 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 for the control of rockets and other aerial vehicles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

India has placed bid for the above regimes (it has become member of MTCR). Thus, hereby analyzing each regime with respect to India.

The topics are as follows:

Ever since the end of World War II, industrialised and developed countries have tried to control the spread of strategic goods and dual-use technologies. Following the onset of the Cold War in the 1950s, these efforts gained further traction among the developed world keen to restrict the proliferation of such goods and technologies to the Soviet Union and its allies. 

Multilateral Regimes are groups that are independent of the United Nations that states may use to organize their export control programs. Their regulations apply only to members and it is not obligatory that a country join. 

Thus broadly Multilateral Control Regime:

• Contribute by establishing control lists and guidelines that most of the potential suppliers subscribe to. 

• Help keep the most/best technology out of the hands of proliferators. 

• Create Global Standards 

The four major Multilateral Non-proliferation Export Control Regimes are:

The Australia Group - Ensuring would-be proliferators are not able to obtain necessary inputs for chemical and biological weapons through the development of ways to minimize export and transshipping risks. Licensing authority over a wide range of chemical weapons precursors is one way to reduce risk. Members require licenses for the export of dual-use chemical manufacturing facilities, equipment, and related technology, plant pathogens, animal pathogens, biological agents, and dual-use biological equipment. These items form the basis for the Group’s common control lists.

The Wassenaar Arrangement - Contributing to regional and international security and stability by promoting transparency and responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and sensitive dual-use (civilian/military) goods and technologies. Members of the Wassenaar Arrangement implement export controls on specific armaments and technologies. Export control guidelines help prevent destabilizing accumulations of weapons and technologies in volatile regions around the world.

Missile Technology Control Regime - Minimizing the risk of the proliferation of WMD delivery systems through the adherence of member states to common export policies and guidelines. Specifically, the aim of the MTCR is to restrict the proliferation of missiles, complete rocket systems, unmanned air vehicles, and related technology for those systems capable of carrying a 500 kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers, as well as systems intended for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction. It achieves its goals through export controls and licensing, relative information exchange between members, and outreach to non-members.

Nuclear Suppliers Group - Contributing to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear and related exports. Forty member countries have developed export guidelines, which aim to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. These guidelines cover nuclear material, technology and equipment, which may be considered dual-use.

 Information on Other Organizations and Treaties

 World Customs Organization - Enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of customs administrations by promoting honest, transparent, and predictable customs environments. Comprised of 159 customs administrations, WCO members process 95% of international trade worldwide. The WCO and its partners assist customs agencies administer technologies and guidelines, which help to harmonize and simplify customs procedures around the world.

International Atomic Energy Agency - Promoting safe, secure, and peaceful nuclear technologies. The IAEA exists to verify that safeguarded nuclear material and activities are not used for military purposes, upgrade nuclear safety and security and prepare for and respond to emergencies, and mobilize peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology for critical needs in developing countries.

South Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) - Stopping the flow and availability of small arms and light weapons in Southeastern Europe by sensitizing governments and civil society to small arms issues and formulating national strategies for SALW control. SEESAC liases directly with governments and communities to provide technical input, information exchange, coordination and overview of current and future efforts and fund-raising assistance for specific projects.

Nonproliferation and Arms Control Treaties and Agreements - Listing treaties and agreements support by the United States Department of State Bureaus of Arms Control and Nonproliferation.

 Critical analysis

The primary function of the regimes during their formative stages was to aid in the harmonization of national export control policies and to provide fora for cooperation, information sharing, and the promulgation of norms to govern trade in sensitive items and technologies. The regimes were not originally mandated to take on separate lives as organizations, charged with taking independent measures in the struggle against proliferation, and were certainly not chartered as institutions focused upon the very nebulous and at that time immature phenomenon of international terrorism.

Further since the end of the Cold War, the number of states participating in the regimes has grown, but at the cost of diluting the original membership criteria. This expansion was driven primarily by the euphoric belief in the non-proliferation community that the end of the Cold War had inaugurated an era in which former Warsaw Pact states would make common cause with the West to squelch WMD proliferation. Another factor was the consolidation of the European Union (EU) into a common economic market with few barriers to the movement of goods and services. The extension of the export control regimes to include the EU thus became almost automatic. 

The MTCR, for example, has grown in membership from seven members (the Group of Seven) in 1987 to 33 in 2002. That means that the regimes now include non-suppliers as well as states that differ significantly in their definition of threats and their understanding of the letter and spirit of the requirements imposed by the regimes.

Third, the control regimes do not require their members to fully disclose which exports they have approved and which they have denied; consequently, they lack the kind of transparency that is crucial to prevent one country from supplying an item that was denied by another.

According to the experts multilateral export control regime should be governed by the following principles and objectives:

1. Replace consensus decision-making with majority voting, at least in such areas as admitting new members, identifying violations by existing members, and developing remedies to deal with violations.

2. Specify the commitments and responsibilities of members and formalize the operations of the regime. 

3. Introduce a dispute-resolution mechanism that allows collective discussion about possible violations by a member, gives that member an opportunity to explain its behavior, and requires all members to abide by the collective decision at the end of the process.

4. Establish clear and uniform criteria for membership, possibly including conditions for expulsion.

5. Create a team of international experts to provide export control training to prospective members and countries interested in adhering to the standards upheld by the regime.

6. Strengthen information-sharing requirements to include not only denial notifications, but approvals.


What is Nuclear Suppliers Group?

NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that frames and implements agreed rules for exporting nuclear equipment, with a view to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons

NSG was established in 1974 in the background of the Pokhran I peaceful nuclear explosion conducted by India in 1974. 

Task: It aim to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, while not hindering international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field. 

It facilitate the development of peaceful nuclear trade by providing the means whereby obligations to facilitate peaceful nuclear cooperation can be implemented in a manner consistent with international nuclear non-proliferation norms. 

Membership: 48 supplier states

Factors taken into account for membership include the following:

•  The ability to supply items (including items in transit) covered by the annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the NSG Guidelines;

•  Adherence to the Guidelines and action in accordance with them;

•  Enforcement of a legally based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the Guidelines;

•  Full compliance with the obligations of one or more of the following: the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaties of Pelindaba, Rarotonga, Tlatelolco, Bangkok, or an equivalent international nuclear nonproliferation agreement; and

•  Support of international efforts towards nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of their delivery vehicles.

India’s Quest for NSG Membership

•  Since 2008, India has been trying to join the group.

•  India submitted its membership application to the NSG in May 2016, a month before the Seoul plenary of the Group. However at the Seoul plenary group, India’s membership was blocked by China

Why India wants to become member of NSG? 

India is keen to become a member of the NSG (and other export control regimes such as the Wassenaar Agreement and Australia Group) due to various reasons:

• Expansion of nuclear power generation: It will significantly expand its clean and green nuclear energy programme.

• Short-comings in NSG waiver:

1.  Although the 2008 NSG waiver allows India to engage in civilian nuclear trade with other countries, but still this allows India to enter into an agreement with each country separately. It’s a piece-meal approach. 

2.  Membership of the NSG will provide a legal foundation for India's nuclear regime and thus greater confidence for those countries investing in nuclear power projects in India. 

• Nuclear export: 

1. It will enable India’s entry in the export market in the coming years.

2. India would like to make effective commercial use of its nuclear expertise in building pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) of 220 MW or 540 MW capacities as well as its possible role as a supplier of special steels, large size forgings, control instruments and other nuclear components and services.

3. Indigenous development of nuclear reactors got further boost with the Indian government’s recent decision to set up 10 indigenous PHWRs of 700 MWe capacities each. This would strengthen India’s credibility as a manufacturer and potential supplier of nuclear reactors that are safe and cost-effective.

• A rule-creating nation instead of rule-adhering: Membership of NSG will move India into the category of international rule-creating nations rather than stay in the ranks of rule-adhering nations.

• International prestige: With its expanding international prestige and profile, India's membership of NSG is of vital significance. 

• Integrating into the global export control regimes: Joining NSG is a part of larger goal of getting admission into the four global export control regimes – NSG, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) and Australia Group (AG). India is already a member of the MTCR.

What are the roadblocks in India’s membership to NSG? 

Since all decisions at NSG (including on membership) are taken by consensus, any country, small or big, can stand in the way of a consensus.

 Now majority of the countries support India’s membership (In June 2016, India became a Member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). All 34 members of MTCR are members of the NSG. Thus India is assured of support of these 34 members in its quest for NSG membership. China is not a member of MTCR).

But China and China backed nations have openly opposed to India’s membership on following grounds:

• Non-signatory to NPT: India is not eligible to become a member of the NSG as it is not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), adherence to latter is necessary for membership in the former.

• Norm-based entry: China has also averred that for non-NPT members some definite criteria should be evolved rather than granting country specific waivers.  No single country waiver should be granted to India as was done in 2008. 

• Linking India’s membership with Pakistan: At other times, China has stated that Pakistan also has similar credentials to join the NSG; and that if India is admitted, Pakistan should also be admitted simultaneously. 

• Will fuel nuclear arms race in South Asia: If only India were to be admitted, it would disturb the nuclear-arms balance in South Asia as India will engage in a massive nuclear weaponisation programme. 

What is India’s response to Chinese apprehensions? 

According to India, most of the questions raised by China against India’s membership have little validity.

• Grossi process:

1. In December 2016, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the former NSG Chair, circulated a new draft formula among Nuclear Suppliers Group member states. 

2. Thus draft formula proposes "nine general commitments" that non-NPT countries "would need to make" in order to receive the "fullest" atomic trading privileges.

3.  According to analysts, India already fulfils all these nine criteria for becoming a NSG member.

• NPT membership is not mandatory: According to the guidelines adopted in 2001 at Aspen, membership of NPT is not a pre-condition for becoming a NSG member. It is only a guiding principle to which consideration needs to be given. 

• Impeccable track record:  If the NSG granted waiver to India in 2008 on the basis of its past performance, then it should have no objection in admitting India as a member because of India’s impeccable track-record in observing the provisions of the NPT and NSG, even though it has not been a member of either any of them.

• India’s view on Pakistan’s membership to NSG: Pakistan’s credentials for NSG membership are highly flawed and inadequate. Pakistan has a blemished and flawed proliferation record as it has engaged in illicit supply of nuclear technology and materials to Iran, Libya and North Korea. 

• On nuclear arms race: Since 2008, as per its commitment, India has separated its civilian and military nuclear programmes, and put the civilian part under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. 

• India’s view on criteria-based membership: India maintains that rather than evolving criteria, its performance should be the basis of its track record.


India has in recent times emerged as major global player in all respects and the global foras’ must recognize the importance of this. China also must see it as an important confidence building step. If it does not block India’s membership it can have huge positive effects on the relationship between the two countries. India on its part must be ready for some hard and smart diplomatic efforts with China on the issue.


What is MTCR?

• It is an informal and voluntary partnership established in 1987 among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of ‘missile’ and ‘unmanned aerial vehicle’ technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.

• In simple language, it aims to “prevent proliferation of missile/UAVs capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction by putting curbs on their export.”

• In 1992, the MTCR’s original focus on missiles for nuclear weapons delivery was extended to a focus on the proliferation of missiles for the delivery of all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), i.e., nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Such proliferation has been identified as a threat to international peace and security. One way to counter this threat is to maintain vigilance over the transfer of missile equipment, material, and related technologies usable for systems capable of delivering WMD.


• The MTCR has 35 members with India being the latest member.


• China is not a member of MTCR, although it put in its application in 2004. It s because several member nations have concerns about China’s dubious proliferation record in supplying missile technology to countries like North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

How does the MTCR achieve its objectives?

Export Controls The Regime rests on adherence to common export policy (the Guidelines) applied to an integral common list of items (the MTCR Equipment, Software, and Technology Annex.)

Meetings MTCR Partners regularly exchange information about relevant missile non-proliferation issues in the context of the Regime’s overall aims.

Dialogue and Outreach The MTCR Chair and MTCR Partners undertake outreach activities to non-Partners in order to keep them informed about the group’s activities and to provide practical assistance regarding efforts to prevent the proliferation of WMD delivery systems.

Critical Analysis

Achievements: MTCR has been successful in helping to slow or stop several ballistic missile programs.

Limitations: Countries within the MTCR have been known to violate the rules clandestinely. China, North Korea, Israel, Iran and Pakistan continue to advance their missile programs which have deployed medium-range ballistic missiles. China and Israel have even deployed ICBMs.


• MTCR is supplemented by the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (ICOC)

Established in: 2002.


1. To prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

2. HCOC does not ban ballistic missiles, but it does call for restraint in their production, testing, and export.

• It thus works parallel to the MTCR with less specific restrictions but with a greater membership (over 110).

• India joined it in June 2016.

Significance of India’s MTCR membership

India became its member in June, 2016 with the consensus of other nations. India has been allowed to retain its ballistic missiles able to deliver a 500 kg payload at least 300 km.

Membership of MTCR is significant to India due to various reasons:

Boost to Indian defence:

1. MTCR membership will enable India to buy high-end missile technology and also enhance its joint ventures with Russia.

2. By joining MTCR, the chances of US exporting Category 1 UAVs, Reaper and Global Hawk to India have increased.

India as arms exporter:

1. India will be able to sell BrahMos, a development that would make India a significant arms exporter for the first time.

2. India had for long eyed Israel's Arrow II theatre missile defence interceptor to develop an indigenous ballistic missile system but couldn't do so because of MTCR's norms. Now, with a ticket to the MTCR in its possession, India will be able to defend itself against Chinese and Pakistani missiles. 

3. India will be able to buy surveillance drones from abroad like the American predator drones. The US may also provide UAVs, Reaper and Global Hawk that are used in counter-terrorism efforts.

Contribution to global proliferation:

o MTCR membership has made India a partner in the international struggle against proliferation of WMD missile technology. 

A step forward for NSG:

1. This certifies that India has evolved a strong legal, regulatory and enforcement infrastructure to regulate export of missiles and missile technology.

2. All 34 members of MTCR are members of the NSG. Thus India is assured of support of these 34 members in its quest for NSG membership. China is not a member of MTCR).


India becoming a member of MTCR is expected to pave the way for increased defence trade and technology transfer. India's own technology which will be developed or made under the flagship programme of 'Made in India' which will see free movement out of the country and may boost the programme in return.


What is Australia Group (AG)? 

The Australia Group (AG) is an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. 

Coordination of national export control measures assists Australia Group participants to fulfil their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to the fullest extent possible. 

This is achieved by members through the harmonisation of export controls like using licensing measures.

When was it established?

It was established in the background of use of chemical weapons (in the form of nerve agents and sulphur mustard) by Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Members: 42 countries + European Union

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.

 All member countries are members of the

  •  Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC) and
  •  Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

How does it work?

Australia Group gives a set of guidelines and a technology list to its participant countries. 

The participant countries are supposed to incorporate the guidelines and technology list in their export controls systems.

India and Australia Group (AG)

India is also willing to become a member of the Australia Group. Thus benefits of Australia Group’s membership to India are:

1. Preventing WMD in South Asia: Joining the Australia Group would enable India to participate in framing rules to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, a concern in volatile South Asia.

2. Boost to NSG membership: Gaining its membership would also help India lobby better for membership in the NSG as many of its members are also members of NSG and will further give credibility.

What are the chances of India becoming a member of Australia Group (AG)?

Getting membership of Australian Group will not be much difficult for India because of following reasons:

• International support: 

1. Like the MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group do not have China as a member. China is holding up India’s membership in the NSG.

2. During a state visit to India in 2010, US had announced US support for India’s entry to UN Security Council as well as four multilateral export controls regimes, namely, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group (AG) and the Wassenaar Arrangement.

• Meets the membership criteria: 

1. Member of BTWC and CWC:  India is a member of both the Conventions— the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). 

2. Success of Indian biotech industry: India has a growing biotechnology industry in the world market, with a highly refined biological export controls system. Thus meeting the criteria for the membership of the Australia Group may not be difficult for India.

3. Elaborate framework in existence: Additionally, India has implemented all its commitment to WMD non-proliferation through its institutional, legal, and regulatory frameworks. India has the elaborate legal and regulatory framework which includes the Indian Environmental (Protection) Act of 1986, the Drug Policy of 2002, Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technology (SCOMET) List, etc.

Thus the group should be open to India’s membership as this would be “a step toward integrating India into global non-proliferation efforts.”



What is Wassenaar Arrangement? 

The Wassenaar Arrangement was established to contribute to regional and international security and stability by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilizing accumulations. 

Participating States seek, through their national policies, to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine these goals, and are not diverted to support such capabilities. 

Established in:

It was established in 1996 in Wassenaar, the Netherlands, which is near The Hague.

Members: 41 member states.

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

 India and Wassenaar arrangement

India is also willing to become a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement. Benefits of Wassenaar Arrangement’s membership:

1. Access to dual-use technologies: Membership of the Wassenaar Arrangement would open up access to dual-use technologies - that can be used for both civil and military purposes - in aerospace, telecommunications, navigation, computing, electronics, sensors and lasers. 

2. Boost to NSG membership: Gaining its membership would also help India lobby better for membership in the NSG as many of its members are also members of NSG and will further give credibility.

What are the chances of India becoming a member of Wassenaar Arrangement?

Getting membership of Australian group will be not be much difficult for India because of following reasons:

• International support: 

1. Like the MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia group don't have China as a member. China is holding up India’s membership in the NSG.

 Meets the membership criteria: 

1. India has impeccable non-proliferation record, which stood it in good stead during the deliberations on NSG waiver.

2. India had passed the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery

Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act in June 2005, fulfilling its obligations under UNSC Resolution 1540, which required UN member states to enact domestic legislation to better account for WMD materials and technology.

3. In the Joint Statement issued in 2010 between india and U.S.,the US notes that in its view, “India should qualify for membership in the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement according to existing requirements once it imposes export controls over all items on these regimes' control lists.”

Thus the group should be open to India’s membership as this would be “a step toward integrating India into global non-proliferation efforts.”



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