Multilateral Export Control Regimes (MECR)

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A multilateral export control regime is a loose group of countries that all want to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems, and advanced conventional weapons. They do this by putting export rules and control lists into place at the national level.

MECR agreements are voluntary, non-binding, and separate from the United Nations. Their rules only apply to members, and a government is not required to join.

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

There are four systems like this right now:

• The Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies

• The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for controlling nuclear and nuclear-related technology

• The Australia Group (AG) for controlling chemical and biological technology that could be used to make weapons

• The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a way to keep track of rockets and other aircraft that can carry weapons that can kill a lot of people.

Nuclear Suppliers Group

• The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of countries that export nuclear materials. Its goal is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons by following two sets of rules for nuclear exports and exports linked to nuclear materials.

• The NSG was made in reaction to India’s nuclear tests in 1974. There is a Trigger List, and things on the list can’t be sent to countries that aren’t part of the NPT.

• 48 countries take part in it. China is part of the NSG, but not of the MTCR or the Wassenaar Arrangement.

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

India’s request to join is being turned down because India hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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

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

Australia Group

• The Australia Group (AG) is a group of countries that meets informally to make sure that exports do not help make chemical or biological weapons. This is done by coordinating export controls.

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

Coordination of national export control measures helps Australia Group members meet their responsibilities under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. The Australia Group has a list of 54 compounds that are known to be regulated in global trade. There are more things on this list than on the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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• The European Union is one of its 43 partners. The members work based on what everyone agrees on. The meeting takes place every year in Paris, France.

• On January 19, 2018, India joined the Australia Group (AG).

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

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

India’s bid to join the Nuclear Supplier Group was expected to get stronger after it joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

The MTCR is a group of 35 countries that work together informally and voluntarily to stop the spread of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology that can carry more than 500 kg for more than 300 km.

So, the members can’t sell weapons and UAV systems that are controlled by the MTCR to people who aren’t members. Decisions are made by getting all the members to agree.

• 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.

• In April 1987, the G-7 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan) set it up.

• 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.

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India can buy high-tech missiles and work with other countries to make unmanned flying vehicles. For example, buying the “Arrow II” theatre missile defence from Israel and “Avenger” military drones 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.

Wassenaar Arrangement

• The Wassenaar Arrangement is a system for voluntarily controlling exports. The Arrangement was made official in July 1996. It has 42 members who share information about movements of conventional weapons and goods and technologies that can be used for more than one purpose.

The term “dual-use” means that a good or piece of technology can be used for both peaceful and military reasons.

• The Wassenaar Arrangement was made to add to regional and international security and stability by making transfers of conventional arms and goods and technologies with more than one use more open and responsible.

The Secretariat of the Wassenaar Arrangement is in Vienna, Austria. It has 42 member states, most of which are NATO and EU states.

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.

It replaced the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) from the Cold War. It has lists of things and technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. 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.

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• 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.

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.

• The fact that India is a member of the MECRs also shows that it is a grown and responsible country, and it helps India push for other big changes in the international order, such as reforming the UNSC.

• Even though India hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is still a part of the Wassenaar Arrangement. This shows how strict India has been about not spreading nuclear weapons.

• Under the Wassenaar Arrangement, it would make it possible to get dual-use things and technologies.

• 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.