NEW DELHI: Fact 1: India isn’t a member of the elite 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), but arch-rival China is. Fact 2: India is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), but arch-rival China isn’t. Fact 3: Both countries want what they don’t have.

And therein lies a tale.
China desperately wants into the MTCR and it very likely opposed India’s NSG bid for that reason – a quid pro quo. “Allow us into the MTCR and we will not oppose India’s entry into the NSG”, might well have been what China was whispering into ears that mattered.
China’s proliferation record

Consider that in 2004, China applied for MTCR membership but was denied it because members considered its non-proliferation record dodgy.

“They’re not there yet”, a U.S. government official told Arms Control Today (ACT) in October, 2004, about China’s eligibility. (Arms Control Today is a publication of the US-based non-partisan organization Arms Control Association.)

MTRC members were concerned that Chinese entities continued to provide sensitive technologies to countries developing ballistic missiles, such as North Korea, the publication said. And since the MTRC aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems – that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks – selling to North Korea is a definite no-no.

Weeks before the October 2004 meeting, the US imposed proliferation sanctions on eight Chinese companies, ACT reported. “One of those, Xinshidai, was specifically accused of missile proliferation. The others, two of which the Bush administration previously penalized for missile proliferation, were punished for unspecified deals with Iran…” ACT reported.

China in the NSG

Interestingly, that very year, in May 2004, China gained membership to the NSG, despite the opposition by several US lawmakers – both Republicans and Democrats – who were overruled by US President George W Bush. One Republican lawmaker called China one of the world’s “principal sinners” when it comes to proliferation, and a Democrat said he had a “deep distrust” of China.

In retrospect, it appears that the refusal to give China MTCR membership was an attempt to set the nuclear balance right, what with China having gained NSG membership earlier that year.

MTCR membership will enable India to buy high-end missile technology and also enhance its joint ventures with Russia, specifically the BrahMos. A few countries, including Vietnam, have already shown interest in buying Brahmos. India will also be able to buy surveillance drones from other countries like the American Predator drones.

 In addition, the US, too, might consider exporting to India Unmanned Aerial Vehicles like the Reaper and the Global Hawk.
 A senior US administration official said about India: Membership to MTCR “permits India to continue to advance its non-proliferation leadership in the world and contribute to that regime, to limit missile proliferation in the world”.No MTCR membership for China, and, worse, US and European missile technology sanctions against China get it none of the benefits India stands to gain. All it gets is a reiteration of its proliferation record vis a vis Pakistan and North Korea.

So, China opposing India’s membership to the NSG to press for its own membership to the MTCR doesn’t seem so farfetched.

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