After last week's disappointment in Seoul where India failed to get membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, there was something to cheer about for South Block on Sunday as India formally joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
A ministry of external affairs press statement said, "The MTCR Point of Contact in Paris has conveyed the decision regarding India's accession to the regime through the Embassy of France in New Delhi as well as the Embassies of The Netherlands and Luxembourg."
Foreign secretary S Jaishankar was handed over the formal credentials at his office in Delhi today. India is now the 35th member country of the elite missile technology control group. With this India has made its way into the first multilateral export control regime and the embarrassment suffered by the government at the Seoul plenary of the Nuclear Suppliers Group can be set aside for now.
India put up a formal application for the MTCR membership last year though it had been adhering to its guidelines since 2008 as part of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. New Delhi, however, came in for a rude shock with Italy blocking India's entry. Rome was miffed over India having detained two of its marines on charges of murder and used the MTCR forum to score a diplomatic point.
Meanwhile, time was running out for New Delhi which wanted to wrap up negotiations while US President Barak Obama was still in office. Just before PM Modi left for the US earlier this month India implemented the International Arbitration Court's order on the second Italian marine. It allowed him to go to Italy pending the trial.
But Rome was finally brought on board and the MTCR membership was announced in the joint press statement on 7 June in Washington DC. It said, "Recalling their shared commitment to preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, the leaders looked forward to India's imminent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime."
The regime was formed in 1987 by the G-7 countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the United States. With India on board it now has a total of 35 members. It is an informal political understanding among states that seek to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology. It aims at maintaining vigilance over the transfer of missile equipment, material, and related technologies usable for systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
The MTCR is not a treaty and does not impose any legally binding obligations on partners. The only activity prohibited absolutely by the guidelines, to which all 34 partner countries voluntarily subscribe, is the export of production facilities for Category I MTCR Annex items.
This includes complete rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle systems capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kg to a range of at least 300 km, their major complete subsystems and related software and technology, as well as specially designed production facilities for these items.
India as a member can play an active role in curbing the global missile non-proliferation threat. It can participate in decision-making and setting international standards for responsible missile non-proliferation behaviour. India can benefit from discussions and exchange of information on licensing, interdiction, best practices, and cooperate to impede specific shipments of concern with regards to missile proliferation.
New Delhi has said "India's entry into the regime as its thirty-fifth member would be mutually beneficial in the furtherance of international non-proliferation objectives". Scientists believe this will open the doors for India to engage in high-end missile technology transfer. After Beijing's Seoul dare this also marks a victory for India over China which has been vying for a membership of MTCR since 2004 but has been denied entry so far.