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India will soon join missile treaty club


India came closer to the first of four nuclear regimes it is trying to gain entry into, with countries belonging to the 34-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) raising no objection to India’s membership later this year.

Diplomatic sources confirmed to The Hindu that after a proposal, circulated by the current Dutch chairperson of MTCR, had met with no objection by the deadline on Monday, India’s membership is a “done deal”, with only “formalities and protocol” remaining. The government didn’t officially comment on the development, but at a press conference in Washington after the Modi-Obama meet, Foreign Secretary Jaishankar said that President Obama had welcomed “our imminent entry” into MTCR.

Meanwhile, the MTCR chair has now begun the next stage of formalities for India, which require each of the 34 member countries to send a “diplomatic note” stating formally that they accept India’s membership. “This could take weeks or even months, given the internal processes of each country,” an official well-versed with the procedure said. India will also soon receive membership documents which it must ratify and return, the official told The Hindu.

India’s membership had been blocked in 2015 by Italy, that seemed to link it to the standoff over the detention of the Italian marines. With the return of the second marine, Salvatore Girone, to Rome on May 29, the sources said, “Italy is no longer blocking the consensus.”

Procedural formalities

“Mission almost accomplished,” said former Chair of the MTCR Norwegian diplomat Roald Naess in a tweet on Monday, adding that “Only some procedural formalities remain before India becomes member of MTCR.” Speaking to The Hindu from Dublin, Mr. Naess, who was the Chair in 2015, said India’s membership to the MTCR had been “a priority from the start”, recounting how a block had been placed on the emerging consensus just three weeks before the plenary in Rotterdam last year.

“We look forward now to India joining the annual plenary session in October 2016 in Seoul this year as a member,” Mr. Naess said over the telephone.

Access to missile tech

Entry to the Missile regime, which regulates nuclear proliferation by restricting export of missiles carrying more than “500-kilogramme payload with a range of at least 300 kilometres”, as well as “unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with mass destruction capabilities”, is expected to clear the way for India to export high-tech missiles and purchase hardware like the U.S. Predator drones.

India is also hopeful of building on the MTCR entry with membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the Australian and Wassenaar arrangements next. However, experts say the MTCR membership is clearly different from the NSG, which will take up India’s application at a special session this week.

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