India’s Stance on Export Control Regimes

An analysis of India’s positioning towards various Multilateral Export Control Regimes displays a trend of norm creation- norm adherence and agenda setting.

By Hamsini Hariharan (@HamsiniH)

India has low reserves of uranium required for its civil nuclear energy programmes. While India has been attempting self reliance in the field by substituting thorium as the primary nuclear fuel in its three stage nuclear cycle, it still suffers from lack of uranium in its reactors. India would also benefit from nuclear technology that it did not have access to during the Cold War because of its isolated road to self sufficiency.

India did not sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and detonated a nuclear device, ‘Peaceful Nuclear Explosion’ outside the NPT norms in 1974. Restitution was quick as the London Club (which then became the Nuclear Suppliers Group) was formed in order to restrict nuclear supply only to countries that have signed the NPT. India relied on indigenously built nuclear facilities for the next three decades until it tested its nuclear device in 1998. India faced harsh criticism for the tests and countries like Japan and the United States even imposed sanctions on the country. However, the world’s opposition to India’s nuclear stance was to change. In 2005, the US-India Civil Nuclear Deal was a pathbreaking deal as it changed the US approach towards India’s nuclear programme. This was instrumental in providing India with an NSG waiver in 2008. India was to be considered a defacto nuclear power and allowed to trade with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In 2010, the Indo-US Joint Statement outlined India’s case for multilateral export control regimes (MECRs). Since then, India has taken intensive efforts to synchronise its export control mechanism with those of different regimes.

While the MECRs all focus on curtailing the supply of sensitive technology, India has focused on improving its own proliferation record, by streamlining its export controls with those of various international regimes. The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act No. 22 of 1992 or FTDR is the principal legal basis for India’s strategic trade control system. The Indian government uses its own export control list known as the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies (SCOMET) list. It has also identified some groups as being more important than others: Currently, the diplomatic efforts are geared towards the NSG and the MTCR because entry into the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group both hold entry into the former groups as a precursor.

The following is an analysis of various export groups and India’s relationship with them:

Name of Export Control Regime Nuclear Suppliers Group
Stated Aim of the Regime “Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of restrictions on nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.”
India’s Position Applied to NSG on May 10, 2016.

India has been keenest on NSG membership because the 48 member group contains supply of nuclear fuel. The NSG was formed in the aftermath of the Indian Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in 1974, and was one of the instruments used to isolate India in the nuclear domain. In 2008, it did provide India a clean waiver to allow it to engage in nuclear commerce. However in 2011, the NSG went back on its 2008 India- specific waiver by instituting new guidelines. The implications of the new guidelines are that it has made the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) even stronger and wants India to join the Treaty.

India’s membership to the NSG is thus important because it allows India to be a part of future norm making in the nuclear domain. As geopolitics always trumps international law, it is possible that the rules of the group can be changed in the future. By being within the rulemaking mechanism, India can ensure that the norms are aligned with its national interests.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Missile Technology Control Regime
Stated Aim of the Regime “Voluntary partnership to curb the spread of delivery systems, particularly proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload for at least 300 km.”
India’s Position Acceded to MTCR in 2016

The main benefit of the MTCR is that it controls missile technology, particularly drone technology that India could potentially gain access to. India’s Brahmos missile, made in conjunction with Russia has a range of 290 km, just under the limit of the MTCR. In the 1990s, the MTCR had protested against the sale of Russian cryogenic engines to India as it supposedly flouted group norms (Russia was a part of the MTCR) and put political pressure until the sale was dropped. Joining the MTCR could prevent similar political pressure against technology transfer. However, an important caveat is that missile technology transfer does not depend on the MTCR alone. Member Countries have traded despite flouting MTCR norms as they are voluntary and non-conforming. Therefore, India does not necessarily need to be part of it to conduct trade but it does add to its political capital.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Wassenaar Arrangement
Stated Aim of the Regime “Promotes transparency of national export control regimes on conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.”
India’s Position India has been streamlining its SCOMET list with the Wasenaar Arrangement

Members of the Wassenaar Arrangement have to maintain rigorous national export control systems and have to be members of or be acting in accordance with the NPT, MTCR, CWC, and the UN Register of Conventional Arms. While the group is said to be easier to gain membership than some of the other export control regimes, India is looking to gain membership only after it gains entry into the NSG and the MTCR. India has been streamlining its SCOMET list, its FTDR and also passed the WMD Act in 2005. Membership in the Wassenaar Arrangement presents one less political hurdle in getting access to sensitive technology. It is important for India’s soft power to be seen as a responsible exporter of technology.

Name of Export Control Regime Australia Group
Stated Aim of the Regime “Through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons”
India’s Position India became a dialogue partner in 2015

The Australia Group looks at harmonization of international export controls on chemical weapons precursor chemicals. As India’s chemical and biotechnology industries grow in size and stature, being a member of the Australia Group would provide India’s commercial ventures with political legitimacy as well. However, it has few other benefits.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Arms Trade Treaty
Stated Aim of the Regime “To prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to the illicit market, or for unauthorized end useand end users, including in the commission of terrorist acts.”
India’s Position India abstained from signing the Treaty in 2013

While India was an integral part of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, it did not sign the treaty because India’s sovereign right to trade in arms could be impinged by the regime. It also wanted stronger action on illegal arms trade. It also contends that the ATT limits itself to arms sales rather than transfers which creates an inherent loophole for countries to take advantage of. India is the largest importer of arms in the world and is thus, any treaty on arms trade need to take the country into consideration. Illicit arms trade, particularly in the neighbourhood is a worrying factor and the Arms Trade treaty is an important step in regulating it. However, unless the Treaty is made stronger in essence, it will not be in India’s national interest to sign it.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
Stated Aim of the Regime “To exclude the possibility of the use of chemical weapons”
India’s Position Signed the CWC on 14 January 1993 and ratified it in 1996

India has been an active proponent of the CWC and in 2009, it became the third country to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons. While India has been accused by Pakistan of using chemical weapons, the accusations did not bear fruit. Indeed, India’s chemical industry is expansive and India has demonstrated its intent to be a part of counter proliferation of chemical weapons by aiding the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

An analysis of India’s participation at various multilateral export control regimes shows India’s proactive efforts in being perceived as a responsible nuclear player. India has been an integral part of the norm creation process by participating in negotiations. However, it does not enter into treaties or join organisations which do not comply with its core interests such as the Arms Trade Treaty. On the other hand, even if India lies outside the regimes, it has followed international norms either by passing domestic laws such as the WMD Act of 2005 or setting up its SCOMET. Now, India is using its position to be join regimes which will provide it a seat at the agenda setting table. In this way, it will make sure that the norm making mechanisms in the future will be in conjunction with India’s national interests.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

, , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply