India solves final obstacle to join missile control group

Washington: The members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, a key anti-proliferation grouping, have agreed to admit India, diplomats said as a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday.

Diplomats with direct knowledge of the matter said a deadline for the members of the 34-nation group to object to India’s admission had expired on Monday without any of them raising objections.

Under this so-called ‘silent procedure’, India’s admission follows automatically, diplomats from four MTCR member nations told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Admission to the MTCR would open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology, also making more realistic its aspiration to buy state-of-the-art surveillance drones such as the US Predator.

India also makes a supersonic cruise missile, the Brahmos, in a joint venture with Russia that both hope to sell to third countries. Membership of the rules-based MTCR would require India to comply with rules – such as a maximum missile range of 300 km – that seek to prevent arms races from developing.

US President Barack Obama had strongly backed India’s membership into the MTCR and three other export control regime Australia Group, Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.

However, on India becoming a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), where China is openly opposing it, the Obama administration is keeping its fingers crossed for the moment.

“On NSG, there is a process that is still ongoing. I do not think the NSG plenary is not meeting until later in this month. Let’s see how it goes but the US is absolutely, categorically, unreservedly committed to India’s membership in the NSG,” an official of the Obama administration told PTI on condition anonymity.

“The US and India and other friendly countries are working actively together to see that India get there,” he added.