India’s membership of MTCR: Scope of Non-Proliferation and emerging regional Challenges

28 June 2016. Mr Modi has praised India’s entry into the MTCR. Getty images.

Asma Khalid

The concerns about nuclear proliferation have compelled the strategic thinkers to continuously strive for establishing multiple legal tools to prevent the nuclear proliferation. As a result of such efforts, various non-proliferation regimes have been set up to counter the risk of proliferation of weapon of mass destruction (WMDs) and control the transfer of nuclear-related material and technologies. The significant nonproliferation regimes that aim to minimize the transfer of WMD includes Zangger Committee (ZG), Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia group (AG) and Wassenaar arrangement. These regimes issues standard guidelines for export of WMD related technology and their decisions are based on consensus. Though, these four Nuclear Non-Proliferation regimes have managed to expose many potential nuclear threats thereby providing a pathway for the international community to disassemble WMD-relevant catastrophic plan. However, despite some remarkable achievements the regimes have failed to achieve the anticipated goals of nonproliferation and cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. The most striking issue is that these regimes especially MTCR and NSG are subjected to manipulation by those in power for their interest contrary to the purposes for the creation of such regimes.

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is voluntary, informal association of countries that share common interests in the nonproliferation of missiles, unmanned air vehicles (UAV), complete rocket system and related technologies capable of carrying minimum 500 kg to the distance of at least 300 km. MTCR is west-dominated cartel of 35 member states. India gained the membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016. The irony of issues is that United States has fully supported India’s entry into four export control regimes: NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.

Consequently, membership of the west-dominated cartel is proved significant for India’s missile and space program as the candidacy of the cartel has not only allowed the India to sell the missiles under certain specifications, but it can also import the high-tech technology without facing the sanctions. Subsequently, India’s entry to MTCR is highly valuable to India as it has improved India’s credentials, which could be helpful to get the membership of NSG. In this scenario, a significant matter arises that now India is in a position to bargain with China for its inclusion in NSG where it might offer the MTCR membership to China. Though China is trying hard to get the candidacy of MTCR, according to experts, it will not bargain with India to get the membership of MTCR. Because China has maintained unequivocal stance regarding India’s membership of NSG and there is no room for compromise on China’s position that is based on principles.

Joining the MTCR will benefit the India in three main areas. First, there will be no legal complications for India to purchase missile related equipment from United States, Russia, Israel, Germany and United Kingdom. Secondly, it will allow the India to full fill its wish to acquire drones such as the Reaper, Avenger. Third India has also been aiming at Israel’s Arrow II missile defense system. Thus the question arises that how India’s membership of MTCR will affect the regional stability? India’s objectives of enhancing missile capabilities have the ability to speed up missile proliferation in South Asia. Nonetheless, providing the waiver to India, major powers concessions and now providing access to sophisticated missile technologies proves the hawkish policies of western powers have always adhered to a state-centric approach in addressing proliferation challenge. These state-centric discriminatory policies encourage the India to create disparities in the balance of power and enhance lethal arms race among South Asian nuclear adversaries. Though MTCR aims to control over the import, export, and upgrading of missile related technologies but such developments are undermining the objectives of MTCR.

Moreover, some drawbacks of MTCR are also undermining its aim to curb the proliferation of WMD. First, non-offensive missiles and SLV can be converted into ballistic missiles and can be used for the offensive purpose. Such as India development of Agni first stage missile through conversion of an SLV has proved the fact that interchangeable infrastructure, material, and technology has severely undermined the scope of MTCR. Other striking issues are that decisions in MTCR are not binding and made on consensus, and lack a mechanism to monitor the issues of compliance. MTCR have only partially succeeded in addressing the missile proliferation and allows member states to acquire sophisticated missile technologies under the umbrella of the nuclear group.
To conclude, India’s inclusion in MTCR is aiding India’s military satellite and missile program, and it is against the aims of Missile Technology Control Regime. Therefore dynamics of Pakistan-China- India’s triangular relations present that India’s membership in the nuclear cartel will enhance Its missile capabilities in future which would further complicate the security equation, strategic balance and threat perception of regional states like China And Pakistan.


  1. China’s NSG stand is based on ‘principles’? Then what do you call China’s transfer of 50 Kgs of WGU, 5,000 ring magnets for enrichment support and other design support for pakistan? principled? (Source: Read ‘Eating Grass’ by the Brig Gen retd of Strategic Plans Div., Pak Army)

    it should be called for what it is, China’s bare knuckled power play with India without bothering to hide its blatant hypocrisy.

    After the AQ Khan led nuclear walmart and proliferation ring, it takes a special sort of unmitigated gall to equate India and pakistan for NSG membership.

    The author should have the basic intellectual honesty to first get neutral 3rd party research and then base her opinions with some modicum of balance. this piece is full of intellectual falsehoods.

    pakistan can do cartwheels all over the place if it wants… india or no india, there is no way it can convince all NSG members…India had nothing to do with the pernicious record pak made for itself.

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