India recently became the 35th member of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an informal and voluntary partnership among countries to prevent the proliferation of missiles and drones of a certain range and payload capacity.

After India became the member of the bloc on Monday (June 27), Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said that the membership would help the country sell “Brahmos” missiles, co-developed with Russia, to other countries. In the presence of French Ambassador-designate Alexandre Ziegler, Dutch Ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga and Luxembourg’s Charge d Affairs Laura Huberty, the foreign secretary also said that it would open up avenues for larger co-operation between India and other countries in areas, such as drones, space launch vehicles, remotely piloted vehicles and sounding rockets. It is believed that the membership will further enable India to buy high-end missile technology.

It is indeed a significant development, as the group is the first among the export control regimes India has become part of. The membership, which was earlier blocked by Italy, will definitely bolster India’s non-proliferation credentials, considering the fact that the South Asian country is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT is widely considered as the cornerstone of all export control regimes. With India planning to sell Brahmos to “friendly” countries, becoming an MTCR member will make the process smoother.

As China is not a part of the MTCR group, India will now be in a position to bargain hard with its northern neighbour if at all Beijing pulls out all stops to get into the club after its failed attempt in 2005. In November 2000, China announced that it would not help other countries build ballistic missiles flying nuclear weapons. Many countries cried foul, as Beijing had helped Pakistan implement its missile development programme.

Set up in 1987, MTCR aims to control the spread of ballistic missiles and unmanned delivery systems that could be used for biological, chemical or nuclear warfare. Since its inception, the group of 35 countries (including India) has achieved a lot, as it has been credited with either slowing down or stopping many missile programmes.

India’s arms import is 2.5 times than that of China’s. The analysis of 2015 data on weapon imports shows that India, along with Saudi Arabia, is the world largest importer of weapons. Among the traded defence armament, missiles had the third largest value after aircraft and ships.

While the value of arms imported by Saudi Arabia in 2015 was USD 3,161 million, India imported arms worth USD 3,078 million, Australia USD 1,574 million, Egypt USD 1,475 million, the UAE USD 1,289 million, Iraq USD 1,215 million, China USD 1,214 million, Vietnam USD 870 million, Greece USD 762 million and Pakistan imported arms worth USD 735 million. The top 10 importers of arms mainly purchased aircraft (worth USD 13,553 million), ships (USD 4,470 million), missiles (USD 3,216 million), armoured vehicles (USD 2,293 million), air defence systems (USD 1,747 million), sensors (USD 1,578 million), engines (USD 1,311 million), artillery (USD 185 million), naval weapons (USD 97 million) and others (USD 178 million) from arms exporting countries.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]