New Delhi: Days after the NSG setback in Seoul, India on Monday became the 35th member of a global anti-proliferation bloc, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which not only ensures transfer of high-end missile technology to the country but also gives it a license to export arms.
"India joined the MTCR,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Monday.
It said that the bloc’s point of contact in Paris had “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".
The MTCR membership is seen as a step forward in India’s recognition as a legitimate nuclear power after New Delhi conducted its atomic tests in 1998.
India had applied in 2008 for the membership of the elite club of countries that control exports in missile technology and unmanned delivery systems of atomic or other weapons of mass destruction. The group was set up in 1987 to limit the spread of unmanned systems for delivering weapons of mass destruction.
The grouping places restrictions on its members exporting missile and missile-related technology, particularly on those capable of carrying a payload of at least 500 kg to a distance of at least 300 km. These include both cruise missiles and larger drones.
India’s long wait to join the MTCR actually ended in Washington earlier in June during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US trip when a deadline for members of the grouping to object to India's admission expired on June 6.
None of the group’s 34 members raised any objections, paving the way for India’s smooth entry into the bloc of which China is still not a member.
China along with other nations like South Africa, Norway, Brazil, Austria, New Zealand, Ireland and Turkey last week blocked India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) -- one of the four multilateral export control regimes.
New Delhi wants to join all of them including the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement since 2008 as part of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement.
The MTCR membership gives India access to restricted high-end technologies for developing its cryogenic rocket engines in order to further its space exploration.
India will now also be able to acquire from the US armed Predator drones - America’s hot favourite in its war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
India can now also explore the sale of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia.
Both countries have been hoping to sell the missile to third countries which would now be possible after India’s MTCR membership, making it a significant arms exporter for the first time. India is already in talks with Vietnam to sell BrahMos with a flight range of 290-km and payload of 200-300 kg.
Italy had blocked India’s entry in 2015 over the issue of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012 off the Kerala coast. The Supreme Court of India recently allowed the second marine, Salvatore Girone, to return home in Rome on May 29.
“India would like to thank each of the 34 MTCR Partners for their support for the membership," Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesman Vikas Swarup said.