India and Multilateral Export Control Regimes

March 7, 2018


Multilateral Export Control Regimes Defined:

  1. These are informal groups of like minded supplier countries which seek to contribute to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and delivery systems through national implementation of Guidelines and control list for exports.

  2. These guidelines are voluntarily implemented in accordance with national laws and practices.

They aim to establish a set of global norms that limit the ability of proliferators to "shop" items and technology in countries that do not have export control systems in place.

 UN Resolution in support of Multilateral Export Control Regimes:

UN Security Council Resolution 1540 is the legally binding Chapter VII resolution which calls upon all states to take and enforce effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery, including related materials, equipment, and technology covered by relevant multilateral treaties and arrangements. 

Weapons of Mass Destruction Acquisition and Export Control Response:

Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM): 

  1. The Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) was created in 1949 for the purpose of preventing Western companies and countries from selling strategic goods and services to the Eastern bloc countries behind the "iron curtain."

  2. The founding members of COCOM were the United States, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom. Countries joining COCOM at later dates were Spain, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Japan, and Turkey.

Multilateral Export Control Regimes in Operation:


  1.  Nuclear Supplier Group:

    • ​It was created following India's Smiling Buddha nuclear explosion in 1974.

    • They feared that the technology transferred for peaceful purposes might be misused. 

    • ​NSG is a group of 48 member countries established in 1992 and focussed on stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

  2. Wassenaar Arrangement:

    • It was established in 1995 by replacing the previous export control regime COCOM (described above).

    • It was formed 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. 

    • India became a member of Wassenaar Arrangement on 8th December 2017

  3. Australian Group:

    • It was formed in response to chemical weapons use in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980's. 

    • It aims to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons.

    • India became a member of Australian group on 19 Jan 2018.

  4.  Zangger Committee:

    • It was formed following the implementation of Nuclear Proliferation treaty to serve as the "faithful interpreter" of NPT and to harmonise the interpretation of nuclear export policies for NPT Parties.

    • It maintains a trigger list of nuclear related strategic goods to assist NPT parties in identifying equipment and material subject to export controls.

    • It has 39 members including all nuclear weapon states (as per NPT definition).

    • India is not a member of Zangger Committee.

  5. Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

    •  MTCR seeks to limit the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by controlling exports of goods and technologies that could make a contribution to delivery systems (other than manned aircraft) for such weapons. In this context, the Regime places particular focus on rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kg to a range of at least 300 km and on equipment, software, and technology for such systems.

    • India joined MTCR on 27 June 2016.

 India and Nuclear Supplier Group:

  1. Challenges for Indian Membership of NSG:

    • Countries like China, Brazil, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland and Turkey are against Indian membership to NSG citing procedural problem relating to India's non-committment to Non-proliferation regime.

    • NSG membership can only be acquired through a unanimous vote.

  2. India's Stand on NSG Membership:

    • Government has engaged with NSG members on the basis of its record on non-proliferation and disarmament, its commitment to follow the guidelines of the NSG, its ability to supply the items controlled by the NSG and its enforcement of a strict law-based export control system. It has highlighted India’s fulfilment of all the criteria that were taken on record at the time of the September 2008 NSG decision on India. Government has underlined that India’s participation in the NSG is in the larger global interest and would advance non-proliferation, energy security and facilitate combat against climate change.

  3. Countries in support of Indian Membership of Nuclear Supplier Group:

    • The merits of India’s candidature have been recognized by a majority of NSG members. India has received support from a diverse and large number of members, including the United States, France, United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Republic of Korea, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Japan.

    • No member of the Group has explicitly opposed India’s membership, certain procedural and process related issues have been raised by a few members.

  4. Indian Efforts for NSG Membership:

    • India made an application for the NSG membership on 12 May 20166 reflecting the progress in its engagement with the NSG that began in 2004.

    • At the Seoul plenary, there was a very large measure of support for India during a discussion on membership.

  5. Impact of Nuclear Supplier Group membership on Indian Nuclear Programme:

    • Pursuant to the September 2008 NSG policy decision, India is pursuing civil nuclear cooperation with key partners such as Canada, France, Kazakhstan, Russia and the US. Membership of the NSG would place our existing cooperation on a predictable basis and facilitate the enhanced investments, industrial tie ups and technology access required to accelerate augmentation of nuclear power capacity in India. 

  6. Benefits of Indian Nuclear Supplier Group Membership for India:

    1. It will increase India's access to state of the art technology from the 47 members of the group.

    2. India will have greater access to Uranium than it have at present post 2008 Nuclear deal with US.

    3. India can begin to commercially produce nuclear power equipments which can even be sold to other countries.

    4. It can give a boost to Make in India programme of the Government of India.

    5. It will help India fulfil its Climate Change commitment goals by reducing dependence on Fossil fuels.

    6. Geopolitically, India can use its membership to restrict membership of Pakistan.


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