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India’s Joining Wassenaar Arrangement Boosts its Credentials to Enter Nuclear Suppliers Group

Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), an elite export control regime, decided at its plenary meeting held on 6-7 December 2017 in Vienna to admit India as its new member. India’s entry into the Arrangement as its 42nd Participating State on 8 December 2017 would be mutually beneficial and further contribute to regional and international security and non-proliferation objectives and is expected to raise country’s stature in the field of non-proliferation besides helping it acquire critical technologies. The goal of WA is to promote transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations. Participants are required to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine the goal. The aim is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists.

  • Wassenaar Arrangement gets its name from Wassenaar, Netherlands, a suburb of The Hague, where the agreement to start a multi-lateral cooperation was reached in 1995.
  • WA came into being on 12 July 1996 to succeed the Cold War-era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM).
  • WA is an elite club of countries which subscribe to arms export controls, similar to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.
  • WA has 42 members, the latest entrant being India.
  • With the exception of China, all the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are signatories of the WA. Its Secretariat is located in Vienna, Austria.
  • WA works according to what it calls WA Control Lists and the controls are subject to ratification by the participants.
  • WA members agree to exchange information on sensitive dual-use goods and technologies and report on such transfers and denials of controlled items to non-participants.

India’s membership of WA is expected to facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high-tech items for our defence and space programmes. It would create the grounds for realignment of India in the export control policy framework of other WA members, including eligibility for certain licensing exceptions.

The first step towards Civil Nuclear Cooperation and Trade between India and the US, as also towards India’s cooperation with the rest of the World in Civil Nuclear Energy, was put forward when India and the United States had operationalized on 10 October 2008 the path-breaking bilateral Nuclear Deal as the 123 Agreement was signed in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington by the then India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; culminating a crisis-ridden process initiated on July 18, 2005 in Washington during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit for talks with US President George W Bush.

Thereafter, India joined Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016 that enabled it to acquire vital equipment for its space programme and its ability to source high-end missile systems and technologies as well as surveillance drones. And now the Wassenaar Arrangement membership, gives India an important voice in shaping global response to regional and global security developments, advances in technology and market trends. The membership of WA would create the grounds for realignment of India in the export control policy framework of fellow-members, including eligibility for certain licensing exemptions.

India as part of its quest for membership in the export control organisations has acquired memberships of two major Non-proliferation regimes in the world, despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The other two regimes are the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Australia Group. India in the coming months is expected to get admission into the Australia Group which focuses on biological and chemical weapons.

India’s impeccable non-proliferation record, despite this country not being a signatory to the NPT, gives it a distinct advantage. 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. It is not difficult for India to convince other countries of India’s mature sense of responsibility and to trade with them in high tech items. In MTCR and WA, India’s membership was cleared by 35 and 41 countries respectively. Most of these countries are also members in the NSG. This will boost India’s credentials to enter into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.

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