Multilateral Export Control Regimes (MECR) – UPSC Notes

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Multilateral Export Control Regimes (MECR) - UPSC Notes

• Multilateral Export Control Regimes (MECR) are voluntary, non-binding agreements made by the major supplier countries that have decided to work together to stop and control the transfer of certain military and dual-use technologies.

• Multilateral Export Control Regimes are groups set up to limit and/or keep an eye on the trade of dangerous goods, such as arms (especially nuclear, chemical, and other weapons of mass destruction), the materials and technologies used to make weapons, and so-called “dual-use goods,” which can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

• Its goal is to stop the spread of weapons that can kill a lot of people at once.

They don’t work for the United Nations.

Their rules only apply to members, and a country doesn’t have to join if it doesn’t want to.

• At the moment, MECR has four such programmes.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is in charge of controlling technology that has to do with nuclear power.

The Australia Group (AG) wants to keep track of chemical and biological technologies that could be used to make weapons.

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a way to control rockets and other air vehicles that can carry weapons that can kill a lot of people.

Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.

• India is now a member of three of the four MECRs, but not the Nuclear Supplier Group.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

• The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a group of countries that sell nuclear materials. They want to help stop the spread of nuclear weapons by following two sets of rules for nuclear exports and exports linked to nuclear materials.

• The first NSG meeting was in November 1975 in London. Because of this, the group is often called the “London Club” (Club de Londres).

• Membership

48 supplier states: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine.

European Commission is a permanent observer.

India is not a member of the NSG because China and a few other members always stopped what it tried to do.

o India’s request to join being denied because India hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

o China asked that countries that haven’t signed the NPT be allowed in the same way as countries that have.

China grouped India’s membership request with Pakistan’s to make it harder for India to join. But Pakistan’s reasons for wanting to join are not at all true.

Membership Criteria

• The following things are taken into account when deciding who can join:

The option to supply items covered by the annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the NSG Guidelines, including items in transit;

Following the Guidelines and acting in a way that fits with them;

Enforcement of a local export control system based on the law that makes good on the promise to follow the Guidelines;

Full compliance with the obligations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaties of Pelindaba, Rarotonga, Tlatelolco, Bangkok, or an equivalent international nuclear non-proliferation deal; and

Support international attempts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the vehicles that can carry them.


• NSG members work towards the goals of the NSG by following the NSG Guidelines, which are decided on by agreement, and by sharing information, especially about changes that could lead to nuclear proliferation.

The first set of NSG Guidelines tells people how to ship things that were made or made ready for nuclear use. These things are:

o (i) Nuclear fuel;

o (ii) Nuclear reactors and related tools,

o (iii) Non-nuclear material for reactors;

o (iv) Plants and tools for reprocessing, enriching, and converting nuclear material, as well as for making fuel and making heavy water; and

o (v) The technology that goes along with each of the things above.

The second set of NSG Guidelines covers the export of nuclear-related dual-use items and technologies. These are items that can be used for both nuclear and non-nuclear purposes and could be a big part of an unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or a nuclear explosive activity.

• The NSG Guidelines are in line with and add to the different international, legally binding instruments in the area of nuclear nonproliferation.

These include the NPT, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), the African Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba), and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok).

• The NSG Guidelines are meant to make sure that peaceful nuclear trade doesn’t help spread nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives. At the same time, they don’t want to get in the way of international trade and teamwork in the nuclear field.

• The NSG guidelines make it easier for peaceful nuclear trade to grow by giving countries the tools they need to meet their responsibilities to help with peaceful nuclear cooperation in a way that doesn’t break international rules on nuclear nonproliferation.

• NSG members agree to supply conditions so that nuclear energy can be used more for peaceful reasons.


• The NSG wants to make sure that nuclear exports are done with the right safeguards, physical security, non-proliferation conditions, and other restraints.

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• The NSG also wants to put limits on the export of secret items that can help nuclear weapons spread.

Dual-use Controls

• At the start of the 1990s, it became clear that the export control rules in place at the time had not stopped Iraq, which was a member of the NPT, from working on a secret nuclear weapons programme. This led to action by the UN Security Council. A big part of what Iraq was doing was getting items that could be used for more than one thing that weren’t covered by the Guidelines and then making things in Iraq that were needed for a nuclear weapons programme. The NSG’s work on its dual-use Guidelines was given a big boost by Iraq’s programme. By doing this, the NSG showed its resolve to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons by making sure that items like the ones Iraq used would only be used for peaceful reasons. These things would still be available for peaceful nuclear activities supervised by the IAEA and other industrial activities that don’t add to the spread of nuclear weapons.

• Because of these changes, the NSG decided in 1992 to create Guidelines for transfers of nuclear-related dual-use equipment, materials, and technology. These are things that can be used for both nuclear and non-nuclear purposes and could be a big part of an unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or a nuclear explosive activity.

• The NSG was made to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and stop terrorist acts that use nuclear weapons.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

• The Non-Proliferation Treaty is an international agreement that took effect in 1970.

• The main goal was to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and technology for making them.

• Besides India, neither Pakistan nor Israel have signed the NPT. India didn’t join the NPT because:

The NPT says that a country is a “nuclear weapons state” if it tested a nuclear weapon before 1967.

can never be just one.

No specific dates have been given for disarming.

NPT is an unfair pact because states with nuclear weapons don’t have to give them up, but states without nuclear weapons can’t have them.

• In 1974, India did its first nuclear test, which was called Pokhran-I (Smiling Buddha). The countries with nuclear weapons were sure that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would not stop the spread of nuclear weapons on its own. So, in 1974, NSG came into being.

NSG and NPT:

• NSG’s present rules say that a country that is not a member of the NPT can’t join.

• India needs to leave the group. India did its second nuclear test, called Operation Shakti, in 1998.

• India has agreed to a voluntary, one-sided ban on nuclear tests. It has taken steps on its own to make sure that nuclear exports are tightly controlled. But the US and other Western countries put new restrictions on India.

• Before 2005, the NSG wouldn’t give fuel to the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, and the US used the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) to stop Russia from giving them technology for cold engines.

• India got some relief when, in 2008, the US finally gave in and agreed to a civil nuclear deal with India. This deal was made because the US had to do so under Section 123 of its Atomic Energy Act of 1954. This is why it is also called the “123 Agreement.”

• As part of this, India signed a plan to separate the military from the government and a safeguard deal with the IAEA. In exchange, the US helped us get a waiver from the NSG.

• In November 2010, during a state visit to India, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. would support India’s participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, and the Missile Technology Control Regime “in a phased manner,” and that the U.S. would encourage the evolution of regime participation criteria to that end, “consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes.”

• India has made a formal promise that it won’t give secret nuclear technology or materials to other countries and will keep its promise not to test nuclear weapons.

• As a result, the governments that are part of the NSG decided to give India a “clean waiver” from its current rules, which say that nuclear trade isn’t allowed with countries that haven’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

• This made India qualified to get advanced nuclear technologies that could be used to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium. This has been very helpful to India.

• However, India still doesn’t have the most up-to-date technology because it isn’t part of the special NSG group. The NSG members have the best and most up-to-date technology. India applied to join the NSG in 2016. After that, Pakistan and Namibia did the same thing.

China’s Opposition

• Most of the 48 members of the group agreed that India should join, but China, New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa, and Austria were against it.

• China said that India had to sign the NPT in order to join the NSG. It wants a non-discriminatory way to let countries in that haven’t signed the NPT. It is no secret that China is trying to stop Pakistan, which is a close friend of China, from getting in.

• But Pakistan’s qualifications for joining the NSG are very weak and not good enough. On the other hand, India has stuck to IAEA safeguards and made steps on its own to follow NPT and NSG rules over the years, while Pakistan hasn’t done anything like that.

How important is India’s membership in the NSG?

• Becoming a member of the NSG will make it easier for India to get cutting-edge technology from the other members of the Group.

• The Make in India programme will get a boost from having access to technology and being able to make nuclear tools. In turn, this will help our country’s economy grow.

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• As part of India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to the Paris Climate Agreement, we have promised to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make sure that 40% of our energy comes from clean, green sources. So that we can reach this goal, we need to make more nuclear power. The only way this can happen is if India joins the NSG.

• Namibia is the fourth-biggest uranium producer, and in 2009, it decided to sell nuclear fuel to India. But that hasn’t happened because Namibia signed the Pelindaba Treaty, which controls how much uranium can be sent from Africa to the rest of the world. Namibia’s concerns are expected to go away if India joins the NSG.

Factors in Favour of India’s Membership

• France joined the special group even though it didn’t sign the NPT.

Commitment to Non-proliferation: India’s promise to keep its civilian and military nuclear programmes separate, along with its history of not spreading nuclear technology to other countries, made sure that technology made in India would not be given to other countries.

Transparency: India has also signed an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which means that its civilian reactors are under IAEA protection and can be inspected.


Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

• It is a loose group of 35 countries that work together on their own to stop the spread of missile and robotic aerial vehicle technology that can carry more than 500 kg for more than 300 km, as well as systems designed to deliver weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

So, it is against the rules for members to sell weapons and UAV systems that are controlled by the MTCR to people who are not members.

All of the members have to agree on a choice for it to be made.

• This is a group of non-treaty countries with rules about how to share information, how to control national control laws and export policies for missile systems, and how to limit the transfer of key technologies for these missile systems.

• It was set up in April 1987 by the USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan, which make up the G-7.

• In 1992, the government started to focus on the spread of missiles that could be used to deliver all kinds of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

• It is not a treaty with legal force. So, if people didn’t follow the rules of the government, there was no way to punish them.

• These efforts to stop the spread of ballistic missiles were made even stronger by “The International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation,” also called the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC). It was set up on November 25, 2002, as an agreement between 136 UN member countries, including India, to stop the spread of ballistic missiles.

• India became the 35th member of the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016.

India is now a full member of MTCR and has agreed to join the Hague Code of Conduct. This strengthens its standing as a responsible nuclear state and makes it more likely that the Nuclear Suppliers Group will let it join.

India can buy high-tech missiles and work with other countries to make unmanned flying vehicles. eg. Buying the “Arrow II” theatre missile defence from Israel, the “Avenger” military drone from the US, etc.

As a member of the regime, India will have to do things like share important information about its military and technological assets and talk to other members about the export of any MTCR items, especially those that have already been approved or refused by another partner.

• China is not a member of this regime, but it has said it will follow its basic rules, but not the ones that were added later.

MTCR and India

• India officially asked to join the group in June 2015 and was accepted on June 27, 2016.

• If India joins the MTCR club, it will get a lot out of it.

Technology Transfers: It will be able to use the most advanced and cutting-edge technologies. India can now make missile systems that can carry a 500-kilogram warhead at least 300 kilometres. India can also get help from other MTCR members, just like it did when it worked with Russia to extend the range of Brahmos.

Economic Benefits: India can give technology and weapons to countries that aren’t part of the MTCR. India and Vietnam are now talking about trading Brahmos because of this.

Strategic Advantages: This has made India’s position in the area stronger against China. Now that India has the MTCR, it can use its weapons to attack all of China and Pakistan. This will make it harder for China and Pakistan to act strategically.


Wassenaar Arrangement (WA)

• The Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) was made to add to the security and stability of the region and the world as a whole. It does this by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in the transfer of conventional arms and goods and technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. This prevents destabilising accumulations.

• The goal is also to stop terrorists from getting these things. It was set up on July 12, 1996, to replace the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) from the Cold War.

• The Arrangement is built on five important ideas:

It helps keep things safe and stable in the area and around the world.

It encourages openness and more responsibility in the movement of conventional arms and goods and technologies that can be used for more than one thing.

It adds to and strengthens the rules for exporting weapons of mass destruction and their parts.

delivery systems.

It is not aimed at any country or group of countries.

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It fights terrorism by controlling what can be exported.

• Wassenaar Arrangement’s Secretariat is in Vienna, Austria.

• It has 42 member states, most of which are in NATO or the EU.

Through their national policies, participating states try to make sure that transfers of these things don’t help build or improve military capabilities that go against these goals, or that they aren’t used to support such capabilities. The goal is also to stop attackers from getting their hands on these things.

Participating States must report every six months on their transfers of arms and their transfers or rejections of certain dual-use goods and technologies to places outside the Arrangement.

• The Wassenaar Arrangement has control lists that list the things and technologies that can be used for more than one thing. These lists are always being changed.

• The Plenary of the Wassenaar Arrangement is the group that makes decisions about the Arrangement.

It is made up of officials from all Participating States and usually gets together once a year, in December.

The post of Plenary Chair is given to a different Participating State every year.

In 2018, the United Kingdom was in charge of the Plenary Chair. In 2019, Greece is in charge.

All Plenary choices are made by getting everyone to agree.

• India became the 42nd member of the Wassenaar Arrangement on December 7, 2017.

By entering the Wassenaar Arrangement, India has also shown that it has technology that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. When countries get together in this way, they swap notes. So, India will get access to high-tech tools that will help its army and space sectors meet their needs.


Australia Group

• The Australia Group is an informal group that tries to make sure that exports don’t help make chemical or biological weapons by making sure that export rules are the same.

• Iraq’s use of toxic weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988) led to the creation of the Australia Group (AG) in 1985.

• Everyone in the Australia Group needs to do everything they need to under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

• The European Commission is one of its 43 members. In January 2018, India became its 43rd member.

The Australia Group made a choice by consensus to add India as the 43rd Participant to the group.

If India joined the Group, it would be good for both sides and help achieve world security and non-proliferation goals.

o India’s bid to join the Nuclear Supplier Group was thought to be strengthened by its entry.

• An Australia-based group keeps a uniform list of 54 molecules that can be used to make chemical weapons and controls their export.

Advantages of Membership

Some of the benefits of joining the Wassenaar system and the Australia Group are:

Technology Transfers

• It will be able to use the most cutting-edge technologies.

• India can come up with new ideas and build on the tools that are given.

• India can make more powerful weapons that can be sold to other countries.

Economic Benefits

• India can give technology and arms to countries that are not part of the group.

• India can build businesses that do the same thing, which would help the economy and create jobs.

Strategic Advantages

• This will make it harder for China and Pakistan to do business with us.

• It will help India become a defence and tech partner for other countries.

• Will give India a boost as a member of the NSG.


India will get these benefits if it joins a Multilateral Export Control regime:

India will benefit from being part of a global export control system for the following reasons:

• It would make it possible for India to buy high-tech missile technology from MTCR member countries for peaceful uses, like its space project.

• Under the MTCR, India can send the most powerful UAVs, like the Predator drone from the US, to countries that need them for security or to fight terrorism.

• The MTCR limits the Brahmos missile’s range to 300 km, but it can be made to go farther than that.

• India will be part of the system that makes rules. It will not only follow the rules, but it will also have a say in how they are made.

• It will let India make sure that the exemption from the Indo-US 123 Agreement (Civil nuclear agreement) stays the same and doesn’t change. India must join the NSG in order for this to happen.

• India’s membership in the MECRs shows that it is a grown and responsible country. It also helps India push for other major changes to the international order, such as reforming the UN Security Council.

• The fact that India is a part of the Wassenaar Arrangement even though it hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty shows how strict India has been about not spreading nuclear weapons.

• Under the Wassenaar Arrangement, it would give people access to things and technologies with more than one use.

• It gives India’s position strategic importance because the country is now a part of three of the four MECRs where China is not. This will give India a stronger negotiating stance as it tries to join the NSG.


• Multilateral export control systems are important parts of the rules-based order of the world today. Membership in these groups gives a country access to more technology and materials and makes it look like a more responsible part of the world order. India is on its way to becoming a major player in the world, so it needs a voice in these MECRs to support its position as a growing power.