India on Monday became the 35th member of a global anti-proliferation bloc, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which ensures transfer of high-end missile technology to the country and gives it a license to export arms.
Here are five things about the group:
1) What is MTCR; how does it work?
Set up in 1987, the voluntary MTCR is a group of 35 countries including India, its newest member. The group aims at controlling the spread of ballistic missiles and unmanned delivery systems that can be used for biological, chemical or nuclear warfare. In other words, the grouping looks at restricting the export of missiles or missile technologies capable of carrying a 500kg payload to minimum 300km or weapons of mass destruction through strict end-use monitoring and each member country aligning their national export control policies with the MTCR guidelines.
2) What is the significance of India joining MTCR?
The MTCR is the first export control regime India has become a member of. It comes two days after a diplomatic blitzkrieg failed to get the country into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The MTCR membership, which was earlier blocked by Italy over the marines issue, could bolster India’s non-proliferation credentials. India is not a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is considered the corner stone of all export control regimes
3) What will India immediately gain from the MTCR membership?
India has been planning to sell Brahmos, jointly developed with Russia, to many countries including Vietnam. Becoming an MTCR member makes this process smoother. India also has keen interest in the fields such as space shuttles, drones, etc. The MTCR membership is seen as necessary in taking the trade or partnership in these areas forward with other countries.
4) Why is China not a member of the MTCR?
For long the US curtailed the sale of missiles and technologies to China. China announced in November 2000 that it would not help other countries build ballistic missiles plying nuclear weapons. Many countries charged that Beijing, which helped in Pakistan's missile development, shared the sensitive technology with others. In 2004, China applied for the MTCR membership, pledged to follow the export control guidelines (India had made a similar commitment in 2008). But Chinese membership was rejected for lack of consensus.
5) Has MTCR achieved much since its inception?
To a great extent, the answer is yes. The MTCR has been credited with either slowing down or stopping many missile programmes.
Argentina, Egypt, and Iraq had given up their joint Condor II ballistic missile programme. Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, and Taiwan had either kept on hold or abandoned some missile programmes. But the regime is also measured against its failure in curtailing the missile programmes of Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, etc.