India's Wassenaar entry, a milestone

India's Wassenaar entry, a milestone

With its admission into the Wassenaar Arrangement, India has reached another important milestone in its decade-long efforts to join multilateral export control regimes. Its entry as the Wassenaar Arrangement's 42nd member follows its admission as a full member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June last year. The Wassenaar Arrangement plays an important role in promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. India will benefit through its participation in this Arrangement. It will enhance India's non-proliferation credentials although it is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It will enable India to acquire critical technologies too. Importantly, it is expected to strengthen India's case for admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). And finally, one of the Wassenaar Arrangement's aims is to prevent critical technologies from falling into the hands of terrorist groups. As a country that has major concerns regarding state-sponsored terrorist groups, India can take the lead in strengthening the Wassenaar Arrangement's hands in blocking the proliferation of technologies to terrorists.

India's approach to multilateral export control regimes has undergone a huge change over the years. For several decades, it preferred to stay out of these regimes as it perceived them as discriminatory. Its approach began changing in the wake of its signing of the India-US nuclear deal. With the door to trade in nuclear energy opening up, it realised the value of being a part of these regimes. Most of the suppliers of high-end dual-use technologies are members and if wanted access to such technology it would need to be part of such groupings. Consequently, India began seeking membership of these regimes. With its admission to the MTCR, India was able to sell the BrahMos missiles to countries like Vietnam.

So far, it has been admitted into the MTCR and the Wassenaar Arrangement. It is yet to secure entry to the Australia Group, which restricts trade in materials used to make chemical and biological weapons, and the NSG, which controls export of nuclear material and technology. China has been blocking India's entry to the NSG and is likely to continue to do so. India could use its membership in the MTCR and the Wassenaar Arrangement as a bargaining chip to get China, which is not a part of these two regimes, to endorse India's entry to the NSG. This will not be easy but India should step up its diplomatic efforts to get China to rethink its obstructionist approach.

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