. Established in April 1987, the voluntary Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. The regime urges its 35 members, which include most of the world’s key missile manufacturers, to restrict their exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers or delivering any type of weapon of mass destruction.
Indian membership to the regime has two implications. First, India’s accession will be seen as strengthening its own export controls, therefore lessening those risks and making it easier for other MTCR members to justify transferring sensitive technology to India. Second, while MTCR guidelines themselves do not explicitly distinguish between transfers to members and non-members – they focus instead on what is being exported and end-use, rather than the membership status of the recipient – American law does make this distinction. In particular, it specifically targets foreigners who help the missile programmes of MTCR non-members. And despite India’s “harmonisation” with the guidelines, US legislators have declared that “India is not an MTCR adherent”. India’s formal membership will presumably mean that other countries can be less fearful of US sanctions if they wish to sell to India.
India’s space programme will be an obvious beneficiary, albeit belatedly – in the 1990s, New Delhi’s pursuit of Russian cryogenic engine technology was stymied by the MTCR. But local commentary has focussed on the positive effect of membership on India’s effort to acquire armed Predator drones from the US.