Jeffrey LewisIndia and the MTCR

In the July 2005 joint statement with President Bush, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh committed India to “harmonization and adherence to Missile Technology Control Regime.

The House legislation to implement the US-India nuclear deal: (more) would terminate exports of nuclear and nuclear-related material in the event that India made any “materially significant transfer of … ballistic missiles or missile-related equipment or technology that does not conform to MTCR guidelines.”

Despit the commitment to adherence and the possible consequences of failure to conform to the MTCR guidelines, India is not a member of the MTCR—although Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Bob Joseph testified last summer that India is now “adding many items that appear on the MTCR Annex” to its export control list. Many, but apparently not all.

India’s partical adherence to the MTCR raises an interesting question about what “materially significant” technologies Indian firms might legally export that would trigger the House provision and just how India will interact with the MTCR. Frankly, I don’t see what the big hairy deal is with having India just join the MTCR, unless curry powder can be classified as a Category II rocket propellant.

The MTCR does not have observer status for states, like India, that voluntarily adhere to some or even all the guidelines, although MTCR members “welcome opportunities to conduct broader dialogue on proliferation issues with such countries.”

I would love to figure out the extent of such dialogue with India, if any, and the areas where India does not adhere to the MTCR guidelines.

Fortunately, John Liang at Inside Defense had the opportunity to ask those questions of Danish minister of Foreign Affairs Per Fischer, who just happens to be chairing the annual MTCR plenary:

Devising ways to ensure compliance with the MTCR—even if a country is not a member of the regime—“could take various forms, and depending on those forms there may be various types of cooperation pursued with non-member states, and this is something that we as incoming chair are very interested in having discussed, with a view to being a bit more specific about what forms of cooperation and contacts we can have with other countries, and what priorities … we think we can achieve in those contacts,” he said.

One possible area the participants could explore, according to Fischer, is to hold a “technical meeting with the Indians to compare the Indian list with the MTCR annex to identify if there are any discrepancies, holes in the Indian list, or if there are products on the Indian list which may not be on the MTCR list and so on.”

Seems like that’s the kind of homework that should be done before the deal, not after.


  1. Anders Widebrant (History)

    Committing seriously to do open-ended research and planning before great foreign policy undertakings would be a dangerous appeasement of the reality-based community.