• Multilateral Export Control Regimes (MECR) are voluntary and non-binding agreements created by the major supplier countries that have agreed to co-operate in their effort to prevent and regulate the transfer of certain military and dual use technology.
  • Multilateral Export Control Regimes are blocs set up with the aim of restricting and/or monitoring the trade of dangerous goods: arms – nuclear, chemical and other weapons of mass destruction in particular; the materials and technologies used in the manufacture of weapons; and so-called dual-use goods, which have both civilian and military purposes.
  • It aims at preventing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
    • They are independent of the United Nations.
    • Their regulations apply only to members and it is not obligatory for a country to join.
  • There are currently four such regimes under MECR
    • The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), for the control of nuclear related technology.
    • The Australia Group (AG) for control of chemical and biological technology that could be weaponized.
    • The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) for the control of rockets and other aerial vehicles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
    • The 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, except the Nuclear supplier Group.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

  • The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
  • The NSG first met in November 1975 in London, and is thus popularly referred to as 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, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.
    • Permanent Observer: European Commission.
    • India is not a member of the NSG because all its efforts were consistently blocked by China and some other members.
      • India’s bid for membership being blocked on the ground of India being a non-signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
      • China demanded for a non-discriminatory procedures for entry of the countries that haven’t signed NPT.
      • China to further obstruct India’s membership demand, had clubbed India’s membership bid with that of Pakistan’s. However, Pakistan’s credentials for membership is extremely inaccurate.

Membership Criteria

  • Factors taken into account for membership include the following:
    • The ability to supply items (including items in transit) covered by the annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the NSG Guidelines;
    • Adherence to the Guidelines and action in accordance with them;
    • Enforcement of a legally based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the Guidelines;
    • Full compliance with the obligations of one or more of the following: the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaties of Pelindaba, Rarotonga, Tlatelolco, Bangkok, or an equivalent international nuclear non-proliferation agreement; and
    • Support of international efforts towards nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of their delivery vehicles.


  • NSG members pursue the aims of the NSG through adherence to NSG Guidelines that are adopted by consensus, and through an exchange of information, notably on developments of nuclear proliferation concern.
    • The first set of NSG Guidelines governs the export of items that are especially designed or prepared for nuclear use. These include:
      • (i) Nuclear material;
      • (ii) Nuclear reactors and equipment therefore;
      • (iii) Non-nuclear material for reactors;
      • (iv) Plant and equipment for the reprocessing, enrichment, and conversion of nuclear material and for fuel fabrication and heavy water production; and
      • (v) Technology associated with each of the above items.
    • The second set of NSG Guidelines governs the export of nuclear-related dual-use items and technologies (items that have both nuclear and nonnuclear applications), which could make a significant contribution to an unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity.
  • The NSG Guidelines are consistent with, and complement, the various international, legally binding instruments in the field of nuclear nonproliferation.
    • These include the NPT, and 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 aim to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, while not hindering international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field.
  • The NSG guidelines facilitate the development of peaceful nuclear trade by providing the means whereby obligations to facilitate peaceful nuclear cooperation can be implemented in a manner consistent with international nuclear nonproliferation norms.
  • NSG members commit themselves to conditions of supply, in the context of the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.


  • The NSG aims to ensure that nuclear exports are carried out with appropriate safeguards, physical protection, and non-proliferation conditions, and other appropriate restraints.
  • The NSG also seeks to restrict the export of sensitive items that can contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Dual-use Controls

  • At the beginning of the 1990’s, it became apparent that export control provisions then in force had not prevented Iraq, a party to the NPT, from pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, which later prompted UN Security Council action. A large part of Iraq’s effort had been to acquire dual-use items not covered by the Guidelines and then to build materials within Iraq needed for a nuclear weapons program. Iraq’s program gave substantial impetus to the NSG’s development of its dual-use Guidelines. In doing so, the NSG demonstrated its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation by ensuring that items like those used by Iraq would only be used for peaceful purposes. These items would remain available for peaceful nuclear activities subject to IAEA safeguards, as well as for other industrial activities that would not contribute to nuclear proliferation.
  • Following these developments, the NSG decided in 1992 to establish Guidelines for transfers of nuclear-related dual-use equipment, material, and technology (items that have both nuclear and nonnuclear applications), which could make a significant contribution to an unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity.
  • NSG was formed with the objective of averting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and preventing acts of nuclear terrorism.

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

  • Non-Proliferation Treaty is an international treaty, which came into force in 1970.
  • The main objective was to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.
  • Apart from India, Pakistan and Israel have also not signed NPT. India refused to sign NPT because:
    • The NPT defines ‘nuclear weapons states’ as those that tested devices before 1967, which means India
      cannot ever be one.
    • No fixed timelines have been mentioned for disarmament.
    • NPT is unfair treaty as nuclear weapon states have no obligation to give them up while non-nuclear states are not allowed to have them.
  • India conducted its first Nuclear test Pokhran-I (Smiling Buddha), in 1974. The nuclear powers were convinced that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) alone would not halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Consequently, NSG was formed in 1974.


  • The current guidelines of NSG state that a non-NPT state cannot become a member of NSG which keeps
  • India out of the group. In 1998 India conducted the second nuclear Test (Operation Shakti).
  • India is committed to voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. It has taken voluntary measures to ensure strong nuclear export control. However, new sanctions were imposed on India by Western Countries, especially US.
  • In the pre-2005 period, the NSG denied fuel for the Tarapur Atomic Power station, while the US used MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) provisions to prevent the transfer of cryogenic engine technology from Russia.
  • India finally managed to have some relief when the US relented and agreed to a civil nuclear deal with India in 2008. This agreement has been done in view of the requirement for the US under Section 123 of its Atomic Energy Act 1954, hence also known as 123 Agreement.
  • Under this, India signed a civil-military separation plan and India-IAEA safeguard agreement. In return, US diplomacy helped us to get NSG waiver.
  • During a state visit to India in November 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama announced U.S. support for 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 to encourage the evolution of regime participation criteria to that end, “consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes”.
  • India has taken a formal pledge stating that it would not share sensitive nuclear technology or material with others and would uphold its voluntary moratorium on testing nuclear weapons.
  • As a result, the NSG participating governments agreed to grant India a ‘clean waiver’ from its existing rules, which forbid nuclear trade with a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • This made India eligible to receive advanced nuclear technologies that could be used to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium. This has helped India a lot.
  • However, being out of the elite NSG group has kept India still out of latest technologies as it is the NSG members that have the latest and the most efficient technology. In 2016, India applied for NSG membership. Pakistan and Namibia followed the suit.

China’s Opposition

  • While a majority of the 48-member group backed India’s membership, China along with New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria were opposed to India’s admission.
  • China insisted that India should sign NPT for NSG membership. It wants a non-discriminatory criterion for the admission of countries who have not signed NPT. It is an open secret that China’s resistance is to facilitate the entry of Pakistan, a close ally of China.
  • But Pakistan’s credentials for NSG membership are highly flawed and inadequate. On the other hand, over the years India has shown adherence to IAEA safeguards and has taken voluntary measures to abide by NPT and NSG guidelines while Pakistan has not taken any such initiatives.

Significance of NSG Membership for India

  • Membership to the NSG will essentially increase India’s access to state-of-the-art technology from the other members of the Group.
  • Access to technology and being allowed to produce nuclear equipment will give a boost to the Make in India program. That will, in turn, boost the economic growth of our country.
  • As per India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) under the Paris Climate agreement, we have committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources. In order to achieve this target, we need to scale up nuclear power production. This can only happen if India gains access to the NSG.
  • Namibia is the fourth-largest producer of uranium and it agreed to sell the nuclear fuel to India in 2009. However, that hasn’t happened as Namibia has signed Pelindaba Treaty which essentially controls the supply of uranium from Africa to the rest of the world. If India joins the NSG , such reservations from Namibia are expected to melt away.

Factors in Favour of India’s Membership

  • France got membership in the elite group without signing the NPT.
    • Commitment to Non-proliferation: India’s commitment to bifurcate its civilian and military nuclear programs along with its non-proliferation record ensured indigenously developed technology is not shared with other countries.
    • Transparency: India has also ratified an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which means that its civilian reactors are under IAEA safeguards and open for inspections.

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

  • It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying greater than 500 kg payload for more than 300 km, as well as systems intended for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
    • The members are thus prohibited from supplying such missiles and UAV systems that are controlled by the MTCR to non-members.
    • The decisions are taken by consensus of all the members.
  • This is a non–treaty association of member countries with certain guidelines about the information sharing, national control laws and export policies for missile systems and a rule-based regulation mechanism to limit the transfer of such critical technologies of these missile systems.
  • It was established in April 1987 by G-7 countries – USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan.
  • In 1992, the focus of the regime extended to on the proliferation of missiles for the delivery of all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), i.e., nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
  • It is not a legally-binding treaty. Hence, no punitive measures could be taken against non-compliance to the guidelines of the regime.
  • These efforts of non-proliferation of ballistic missile systems had further been strengthened by “The International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation”, also known as the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC), which was established on 25 November 2002 as an arrangement to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles with 136 UN member countries including India.
  • India was inducted into the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016 as the 35th member.
    • India has joined MTCR as a full member and also agreed to join the Hague Code of conduct which bolstered its position as a responsible nuclear state and strengthen its case for the membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group.
    • India can procure high-end missile technology and run joint programmes for development of unmanned aerial vehicles with other countries. eg. Procurement of theater missile interceptor “Arrow II ” from Israel, military drones like “Avenger” from the USA etc.
    • India being a member of the regime will have some obligations like sharing critical information about its military and technological assets, consulting other member countries regarding the export of any MTCR items, especially those notified or denied by another partner.
  • China is not a member of this regime but it had verbally pledged to adhere to its original guidelines but not to the subsequent additions.

India and MTCR

  • India formally applied for membership to the group in June 2015 and got it on 27 June 2016.
  • India will gain a lot from entry in to the MTCR club.
    • Technology Transfers: It will get access to the latest state of the art technologies. India can now build missile systems capable of carrying a 500 kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers and even take assistance from other MTCR members like India did in increasing the range of Brahmos with the help of Russia.
    • Economic Benefits: India can transfer technology and missiles to non-MTCR members. This has led to trade talks for Brahmos between India and Vietnam.
    • Strategic Advantages: This has led India to strengthen its position against China in the region. With MTCR in its kitty, India can now target whole of China and Pakistan through its missiles. This will create strategic deterrence against China and Pakistan.

Wassenaar Arrangement (WA)

  • The Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) has been established in order 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.
  • The aim is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists. It is the successor to Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) from the Cold War era, and was established on 12 July 1996.
  • The Arrangement is based on five crucial principles:
    1. It contributes to regional and international security and stability.
    2. It promotes transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.
    3. It complements and reinforces the export control regimes for weapons of mass destruction and their
      delivery systems.
    4. It is not directed against any state or group of states.
    5. It uses export controls as a means to combat terrorism.
  • Wassenaar Arrangement’s Secretariat is in Vienna, Austria.
  • It has 42 member states comprising mostly NATO and EU states.
    • 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. The aim is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists.
    • Participating States are required to report their arms transfers and transfers/denials of certain dual-use goods and technologies to destinations outside the Arrangement on a six-monthly basis.
  • The Wassenaar Arrangement has control lists that document the dual-use goods and technologies. These lists are updated regularly.
  • The Wassenaar Arrangement Plenary is the decision-making body of the Arrangement.
    • It is composed of representatives of all Participating States and normally meets once a year, usually in December.
    • The position of Plenary Chair is subject to annual rotation among Participating States.
    • In 2018 the Plenary Chair was held by the United Kingdom, and in 2019 the Chair is held by Greece.
    • All Plenary decisions are taken by consensus.
  • India was inducted to the Wassenaar Arrangement on 7 December, 2017 as the 42nd member.
    • India joining the Wassenaar Arrangement implies that India is also recognised to have dual use technology. There is an exchange of notes when countries meet in such arrangements. So, India will gain access to high technology which will help to address the demands of its defence & space sectors.

Australia Group

  • Australia group is an informal group that seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons through the harmonization of export controls.
  • The formation of the Australia Group (AG) in 1985 was prompted by Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)
  • Australia Group participants need to fulfill their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to the fullest extent possible.
  • It has 43 members including the European Commission. India became its 43rd member in January 2018.
    • The Australia Group decided to admit India as the Group’s 43rd Participant through a consensus decision.
    • India’s entry into the Group would be mutually beneficial and further contribute to international security and non-proliferation objectives.
      • The entry was expected to strengthen India’s concerted bid for membership of Nuclear Supplier Group.
  • Australia group maintains export controls on a uniform list of 54 compounds that can be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

Advantages of Membership

Advantages that may come with the membership of Wassenaar arrangement and the Australia Group are as under:

Technology Transfers
  • It will get access to the latest state of the art technologies.
  • India can innovate and build upon the technologies provided.
  • India can develop more advanced weapons for commercial use.
Economic Benefits
  • India can transfer technology and weapons to non member nations.
  • India can develop industries for the same in India boosting economy and provide with job creation.
Strategic Advantages
  • This will create strategic deterrence against China and Pakistan.
  • It will help in making India as a Defence and technology partner to nations.
  • Will act as a boost to India’s membership in NSG.

Benefits to India by becoming a member of a Multilateral export control regime:

The membership of a multilateral export control regime is beneficial for India due to the following reasons:

  • It would open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology from member nations for use in peaceful purposes like its space programme under the MTCR.
  • India can export the most advanced UAVs for use in security and counter-terrorism purposes under the MTCR for example, the Predator drone from the USA.
  • The range of the Brahmos missile can be extended beyond the 300km that it has been limited to under the MTCR.
  • India will be a part of the rule-making system and will not only adhere to the rules but have a say in their formulation.
  • It will allow India to ensure that the waiver due to the Indo-US 123 Agreement (Civil nuclear agreement) stays and is not modified. This can only be done if India becomes a member of the NSG.
  • The membership of the MECRs also shows that India is a mature and responsible nation and strengthens its bid for other major reforms in the international order like reform of the UNSC.
  • The fact that India was made a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement even though it is not a signatory to the Nuclear NPT shows the strict adherence to non-proliferation that India has maintained.
  • It would allow access to dual-use goods and technologies under the Wassenaar Arrangement.
  • It gives strategic significance to India’s stance as now India is a member of three of the four MECRs where China is not a member. This will allow India a better bargaining chip in its quest to gain a position in the NSG.


  • Multilateral export control regimes today form significant decision making bodies in the global rules-based order. Membership to these not only allows greater technology and material access but enhances the credibility of a nation as a responsible member of the world order. India is poised to become a significant player in the world and thus requires a voice in these MECRs to further its claim as a rising power.

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