India's entry into Australia Group and Wassenaar agreement is a significant development, membership of these multilateral export control regime is expected raise New Delhi's stature in the field of non-proliferation and help it acquire critical technologies.

India joined the Australia Group which aims to stop the development and acquisition of chemical and biological weapons. India joined the MTCR in June 2016, followed by the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2017. A significant development, membership of these multilateral export control regime is expected raise New Delhi's stature in the field of non-proliferation and help it acquire critical technologies. It will give India access to a host of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies including 'intrusion software' technologies, which form a part of the mass-surveillance systems. These move may take the country an inch closer to joining the 'Nuclear Suppliers' group (NSG).

Internationally there are four non-proliferation related export control regimes which governs the host of technology transfers arrangement. These are:-

Wassenaar Agreement (WA)

WA is a 41-member group established in December 1995 to coordinate and harmonise policies governing exports of arms, dual-use equipment and sensitive technologies. WA is one of the key export control regimes that deals with non-proliferation with  basic objective is to contribute to regional and international peace and stability by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual use goods and technologies thereby preventing destabilising acquisitions or acquisitions by non-state actors.

The members agree to exchange information on sensitive dual-use goods and technologies and report on such transfers and denials of controlled items in WA Control Lists to non-participants. New members are accepted based on specific criteria, including countries which produce/export arms or associated dual-use goods and technologies; establish national policies that restrict sale of arms and sensitive technologies to countries of concern; and adhere to non-proliferation regimes.

The regulations are implemented through two lists: the Munitions list which tracks conventional weapons, and the Dual-Use Goods and Technologies list.

India approved SCOMET (Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies) items, mandatory under the Wassenaar Arrangement.

Member states harmonise their national export policies relating to conventional weapons, covered in the Munitions List whose 22 categories cover small arms and light weapons, tanks and armoured vehicles, marine vessels, aircraft and helicopters.

The second control list is the Dual Use Goods and Technologies list divided into 9 categories covering

  • Special Materials
  • Processing Machinery and Equipment
  • Electronics
  • Computers
  • Telecommunications
  • Information Security
  • Sensors
  • Aerospace
  • Marine Systems

          With diffusion of technology accelerated by globalisation and the ICT revolution, WA's role has become more significant. The new ICT and related technologies like encryption, blockchain systems, surveillance and big data analytics have been developed by the private sector and found early applications in the commercial world. This makes export regulation of dual use technology items both necessary and also complex.

Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG)

NSG controls export of nuclear material and technology. Indian attempt to join the NSG has been stonewalled by China.

Australia Group (AG)

AG seeks to prevent proliferation of chemical and biological weapons by controlling exports or sensitive chemicals, biological organisms and materials, relevant equipment and technologies and putting checks on international export controls on chemical weapons and precursor chemicals.

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

MTCR keeps a check on transfer of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of carrying a payload of at least 500 kg over a range of at least 300 kilometres. India became a member of the MTCR in 2016. The membership  access to high-end missile technology from across the world and will allow India to purchase top-of-the-line missile systems. And paved the way for India to sell its supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles to other countries.

India's intensified focus on engagement with the export control regimes the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement would give India a chance for a closer interaction with member states and also to hold up its credentials, despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Entry into these four groups would end decades of denial of technology by the developed countries and allow India to import high-level technology to build capability

While India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US in 2016, the remaining two Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information and Services Cooperation (BECA)  are yet to be signed. These three pacts are crucial for India to sign as it is now being recognised as a 'Major Defence Partner' of the US.

[Issue: 1, January-February 2018]


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