After its entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime in June 2016, India was on Thursday admitted as the 42nd member of the Wassenaar Arrangement – a global grouping that regulates transfer and access to conventional weapons and dual-use technologies.
In the coming months, India expects to be included in the Australia Group as well, leaving the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) – where it faces stiff opposition from China – as the last non-proliferation regime that India expects to enter.
“India’s membership (in Wassenaar Arrangement) is expected to facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high tech items for our defence and space programmes… The membership would create the grounds for realignment of India in the export control policy framework or other WA members, including eligibility for certain licensing exemptions,” the ministry of external affairs spokesperson said on Friday.
India still has to apply for licences for high-tech and dual-use exports, but from now, that process is expected to get easier. This is the second of four non-proliferation regimes India has joined after the India-US nuclear deal was cleared. The important aspect of three out of the four regimes is that China is not a member of them except for the NSG.
The formal application to Wassenaar was made by India in 2016, although the work to align Indian rules and munitions lists to Wassenaar rules began in 2014.
There is some overly optimistic belief in domestic circles that New Delhi could leverage its membership to MTCR and Wassenaar Arrangement for a deal on China’s membership to these groups. China has applied for membership to MTCR but has been kept out because of its strong history of proliferation. But there is a larger narrative building up. In MTCR and Wassenaar, India’s membership was cleared by 35 and 41 countries respectively. Most of these countries are also members in the NSG. Therefore, India’s credentials or its non-NPT status did not come in the way in both of these groupings. This also makes China’s argument about a criteria-based membership application process increasingly specious.
Bit by bit, India’s accession to these non-proliferation regimes is making it clearer that China’s political opposition is the stumbling block. South Block sources said India hopes that next year’s NSG plenary will see more countries accepting India’s point of view.
India’s m embership to MTCR opened doors for its space programme and its ability to source high-end missile systems and technologies as well as surveillance drones. The Wassenaar membership is important for India, giving it a leg up as a responsible player in the world of dual-use goods and technologies and transfer of conventional arms. It gives India an important voice in shaping global response to regional and global “security developments, advances in technology and market trends…” as the chairman of the Wassenaar Arrangement, Jean-Louis Falconi said.
Outside these groups India would have trouble accessing a number of these technologies, because India has been for over 40 years the target of dual-use technology denial regimes. Even after the India-US deal, India hasn’t actually been able to break through these regimes.
Membership is expected to declare India kosher, as it aligns its internal systems to these global regimes.