India joins Wassenaar Agreement
- In a significant development, India made it to the group of elite members of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) as its 42nd member.
- The stringent criteria for joining the Arrangement includes accepting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but this was waived for India due to US, German and Russian pressure, citing India’s immaculate non-proliferation record.
- The India-US nuclear deal of 2005, India’s tightening of its export control list earlier this year and its accession to the Missile Technology Control Regime would also have helped New Delhi’s case.
What is Wassenaar Agreement
- The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies is a multilateral export control regime.
- The Wassenaar Arrangement was established to contribute to regional and international security and stability by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilizing accumulations.
- Participating states seek, through their national policies, to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine these goals, and are not diverted to support such capabilities.
Significance for India
Since its civil nuclear deal with the U.S. France and Russia, India has been trying to get into export control regimes such as the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement that regulate the conventional, nuclear, biological and chemicals weapons and technologies. India is also in the advanced stage of entering Australia group.
An entry in the WA will benefit India in the following ways:
- India’s membership is expected to facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high tech items for our defence and space programmes.
- Many of the international companies were not able to trade with India because of their respective national governments’ compliance with the multilateral arms control regimes, such as WA.
- The membership of WA will now give India access to a host of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. This includes a host of ‘intrusion software’ technologies.
- WA in December 2013 had amended its export control clauses to deny non-member states many new technologies, including ‘intrusion software’.
- While this was aimed at avoiding the misuse of powerful surveillance technologies by authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, these amendments ended up hurting India as well, which was in the process of strengthening its domestic surveillance regime, post the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
A diplomatic win
- Besides USA, Russia and France played key roles in ensuring India’s membership to Wassenaar Arrangement. This is a diplomatic victory for India.
- If one looks at the WA membership with India’s recent success at the International Court of Justice, it is certain to elevate its diplomatic profile.
- The fact that China is not a member of the WA means that, hypothetically speaking, if it decides to apply for the WA membership in the future, India will have a say in the decision – just as currently China has on India’s application of NSG membership.
- There is small chance that India may strike a deal with China in the long run to help it enter the Wassenaar Arrangement in return for Beijing shedding its opposition to India’s entry into NSG.
- The Wassenaar membership gives India an important voice in shaping global response to regional and global security developments, advances in technology and market trends.
- Since many countries are common to NSG and to Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australian group, India would be in a better position to push its case for membership of NSG with them to thwart Chinese designs at least in the long run.
India’s global prestige rises
- Many of the nuclear regimes were constituted specifically targeting India.
- India viewed these as ‘technology denial regimes’.
- However, India has an impeccable non-proliferation record.
- There is a global recognition of India’s responsible behaviour as a nuclear weapons state and its potential contribution to the maintenance of nuclear norms.
- The United States and Europe now believe that efficacy of these regimes would face credibility crisis without India’s participation.
Why does India want a membership in the NSG?
- NSG membership can allow India access to sustainable supply of nuclear fuel at competitive prices thereby making it possible to speed up implementation of stalled nuclear projects.
- Access to technologies can help India to fast forward its thorium use programme towards its civil nuclear energy production.
- India could also import reprocessing technologies, which are critical for a three-stage nuclear programme.
- There can be little doubt that NSG membership could fast forward signing of civil nuclear deals with Australia and Japan
- The membership of NSG could allow India to be a part of the decision-making process regarding supply of nuclear technology.
- It can later put its foot forward with a demand to bring down nuclear stockpiles all over the world and in turn make its neighbourhood safe too.
What is NSG
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Road to NSG membership; still challenging
- Though, the membership of the WA will further embellish India’s non-proliferation credentials and give it more access to sensitive technologies, it does not guarantee entry to the NSG, where consensus is a must for membership.
- While membership of the Australia Group is easier, it makes no sense without entering the NSG.
- China may not change its position, just because India has gained entry into the WA.
- This means that the road to NSG membership will be a long one and India should dig in deep and not give up.