India’s MTCR membership: Intense arms race ahead

Published: June 29, 2016
Foreign Secretary Jaishankar receives MTCR membership papers from Envoys of France, Netherlands and Luxembourg. PHOTO: MEA INDIA

Foreign Secretary Jaishankar receives MTCR membership papers from Envoys of France, Netherlands and Luxembourg. PHOTO: MEA INDIA

India overcame its last hurdle in becoming the 35th member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) after it released an Italian marine’s Salvatore Girone on May 29th. Last year, Rome had blocked Delhi’s membership to this elite bloc, which is often misconstrued as a club that gives a few elites the right to buy and sell high-end technology while denying the rest.

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India is also trying to join the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG), which is a club of nations to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Although she needs a more aggressive American push to be able to join NSG, it has still managed to surpass China whose membership bid in the MTCR has failed to receive a consensus nod since 2004. Beijing has, however, maintained adherence to the regime’s export control guidelines and it is also widely alleged that North Korean missile programme is based on Chinese technology. Meanwhile, Pakistan believes it is not ready for the membership of the voluntary club.

America’s support for India

Modi government is celebrating the success in media even after being attacked for poor homework on the NSG bid. The nation owes much to Washington for granting a waiver after US-India nuclear deal in 2008 and ever since, US President Obama has fully sponsored India’s entry in to the four key exports control bodies – NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.

China’s absence also helped India sail through the membership process. But for the NSG slot it needs Beijing’s support, which is a far cry as Beijing will be directly affected by India’s entry in the MTCR, which allows her to sell missiles within 300kilometres of range and are capable of carrying 500 kilogrammes of payload. Moreover, Delhi’s first customer for Indo-Russia co-developed BrahMos cruise missile is Vietnam and the capital’s increasing involvement in the South China Sea will serve as an irritant to Sino-India relations.

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Not only does the membership of the missile club give India the right to sell missiles and projectiles within certain specifications, it can also buy high-end technology its scientists have been unable to develop or obtain reverse-engineering. The US confidence in India and its signing of the club membership will improve its worthiness to buy hi-tech systems from other advanced countries, as the American law clearly distinguishes between member states and others. While, for Washington, India will be a desperate client. She will be able to invest long term and serve to its hegemonic designs.

Recently, the scope of MTCR was also widened to include platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles. Considering India has developed a long wish-list for drones such as the Avenger, Reaper and Global Hawk, there will be no legal glitches in the way of their purchases from this recent development. Much will now depend on which technology the exporters want to sell and whether Delhi can foot the bill.

India has also been eyeing at Israel’s Arrow II missile defence system. The MTCR membership benefits her to access the hi-tech missile shield against advanced Chinese and Pakistani rockets. Nonetheless, Obama’s concessions and waiver for India has continuously fed into India’s hawkish designs, creating greater disparities in regional balance of power. In the meantime, Delhi continued to strengthen its technological cooperation with Russia. Hence, the two-way technological support to India will continue to fuel arms race in the region.

The rising pressure on Pakistan

Considering the western domination and bias, Beijing has not pressed hard for its membership to the MTCR. Instead, it has further enhanced its indigenous capability in long-range hypersonic systems to launch satellites in the space and warheads or anti-ballistic missiles.

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Similarly, Pakistan has its own indigenous missile and UAV development programme in times of technology denial. Delhi’s forthcoming acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defence system coupled with its missile programme puts additional strain on Islamabad. Force deployment on the borders manifests that India’s foremost enemy remains Pakistan and not China and with provision of even more advanced technology after joining the MTCR, Delhi will be able to enhance performance and payload of its missiles besides boosting its other related capabilities.

Moreover, Obama wants India to become an NSG member before he leaves the White House. The MTCR membership along with the other two export control regimes are set to pave Delhi’s way to the NSG, even though neither is she an alliance nor in full compliance with the obligations of the NPT and various nuclear weapon free zone treaties. It also has shabby records in enforcing a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. In fact, although less publicised by the popular western and Indian media, the nuclear safety issues in India has also been alarmingly high.

How serious is India?

But Narendra Modi continues to aggressively push India’s case in all such prestigious clubs. However, the opposition at the NSG is not as mild as in the case of MTCR. Amongst its 10 opponents in the 48-nation club includes China, Turkey, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland and Brazil. However, even if India is kept out of the NSG, its MTCR status will help her topple the balance of power in the region further while feeding into an intense arms race under the risk of a nuclear conflict.

Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul. He tweets @naveed360.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • vinsin
    Jun 29, 2016 - 3:10PM

    China is not interested in MTCR as that would expose Pakistan missiles which are supplied by Chinese. China is the biggest proliferator of Missiles and Nukes. Disparity depends upon whether China funds further Pakistan defense or not. MTCR will help India in making faster technological advances in missile defense (Indigenous capability are still satisfactory like PAD and AAD).

    NSG will help India to sell AHWR in world market and will pave a way for UNSC veto power country. Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jun 29, 2016 - 4:49PM

    “The two-way technological support to India will continue to fuel arms race in the region.”
    Bring it on!Recommend

  • Ajeet
    Jun 29, 2016 - 5:40PM

    Too much however and moreover used and is elementary school gradeRecommend

  • Rahul
    Jun 29, 2016 - 6:00PM

    So Pakistan cannot develop a Bicycle but it develops Missiles without Chinese help? Really!Recommend

  • Raj
    Jun 29, 2016 - 9:05PM

    China is using Pakistan card to contain india and India is using American card or vice versa to contain china. There is nothing wrong in it. China is the biggest proliferator of nuclear materials and giving sermons now which is like Satan reciting bible!!!!!!!!!. SO this race will go on and on. No morality can be claimed by any country incluindg India and China. There is no nation left in the world which is engaed only in moral activities and conducts it relationship morally. Sorry, morality thing is extinct now.Recommend

  • King Khan
    Jun 29, 2016 - 9:08PM

    This insecurity could have been totally avoided if Pakistan had not used the policy of bleeding by thousand cuts towards India. This singular obsession at the cost of it’s own development just to prove it’s two nation theory was right has what made Pakistan almost non relevant nation in Asia.Recommend

  • Jiten
    Jun 29, 2016 - 10:17PM

    WHOA….India and Pakistan are in “balance of power”???????? India is 10 times of Pakistan economically and almost the same times militarily. And this is only expanding. I guess to Paki journalists that is “balance of power”….LOLRecommend

  • Woz ahmed
    Jun 29, 2016 - 10:57PM

    Only solution is to double the defence budget, education and health can wait !

    Not my mantra but the boys!Recommend

  • Kam
    Jun 30, 2016 - 2:40AM

    And what India is giving in return to US? Nobody asking that. Does that mean that in future Indian shop keepers have to shutdown their shops to work at wal-mart supermarket checkouts? Recommend

  • amir khan
    Jun 30, 2016 - 4:55AM

    so for indian leaders that italian life is important than their own indians. for NSG try hard india. ur papa cant help u there. Pakistan does not need to join this group because with or without we are doing what we want.Recommend

  • Abid
    Jun 30, 2016 - 5:31AM

    Too many indians on this page…. hmm…interesting!Recommend

  • wb
    Jun 30, 2016 - 7:13AM

    Pakistan, do you really want arms race with India? You’re a begging bowl with multiple secessionist movements and crumbling infrastructure.

    You’ll break like USSR. Well, you’ve already broken once.Recommend

  • Indian
    Jun 30, 2016 - 9:37AM

    @Abid: because, the topic is “India!:Recommend

  • Ali Usman
    Jun 30, 2016 - 10:03AM

    Too many Indians on the page can definitely show how much indians are concerned about Pakistan while claiming they don’t even consider Pakistan a match for their country. LOLRecommend

  • Prada
    Jun 30, 2016 - 10:58AM

    MTCR is much more important to India because of the Anti-Ballistic Missile technology it is seeking to develop. That is the only way to nullify the missiles of the enemy.Recommend

  • Tp
    Jun 30, 2016 - 11:01AM

    ‘Balance’ with Pakistan??
    Don’t make me laugh !Recommend

  • Shahid
    Jul 12, 2016 - 9:56AM

    Pakistan has to adopt a strategy of self-reliance for defense needs because now Indian aggression got help from Americans. Though they are helping India because it will counter China but the historical analysis shows us a different story. India will use the given weapons against Pakistan because it cannot match the conventional weapons capability of China.Recommend

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