Wassenar Arrangement and India
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What is Wassenaar Arrangement?
The Wassenaar Arrangement is an elite club of countries which subscribe to arms export controls, similar to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.
The body came into being in 1996 to succeed the Cold War-era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls. The name comes from Wassenaar, a suburb of The Hague, where the agreement to start such a multi-lateral cooperation was reached in 1995.
Who are all members of the Wassenaar Arrangement?
The WA has 42 members, the latest entrant being India. With the exception of China, all the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are signatories of the WA, which is headquartered in Vienna.
How does the Wassenaar Arrangement work?
According to the WA website, the goal of the Arrangement is to "promote transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies". Participants are required to "ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine the goal". The aim, according to WA, is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists.
What are Wassenaar Control Lists
The Arrangement works according to what it calls WA Control Lists. The controls are subject to ratification by the participants. WA members agree to exchange information on sensitive dual-use goods and technologies and report on such transfers and denials of controlled items to non-participants.
What does this mean to India?
Since it’s a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India would look up to the WA membership to boost its credentials to enter NSG. Crucially, China, which stands in the way of India’s NSG entry, is not a member of WA.
Are there any catches?
Critics see WA simply as a Cold War instrument with a different name. According to them Arrangement perpetuates a digital divide by restricting western companies and governments from supplying crucial technologies to emerging markets. Computer scientists and policy analysts have also expressed concern about developed economies using less developed countries as Guinea Pigs for their cyber security research by supplying them with intrusive technologies that could be used for mass surveillance.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, has accused the United States of going for even narrower restrictions on technology transfer.
December 2017: India given membership
Wassenar Arrangement, an elite export control regime decided to admit India as its new member, which is expected to raise New Delhi’s stature in the field of non-proliferation besides helping it acquire critical technologies. The decision was taken at the two-day plenary meeting of the grouping in Vienna.
The WA membership is also expected to build up a strong case for India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Significantly, China, which stonewalled India’s entry into the 48-nation NSG, is not a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement.
Space, defence to gain from entry to export control regime
The Ministry of External Affairs welcomed the decision of the Wassenaar Arrangement to admit India as the 42nd member of the organisation which aims to regulate trade and use of dual use technology. Officials said that following admission into the club, India will get access to high technology, which will help address the demands of Indian space and defence sectors.
“India’s membership (in Wassenaar Arrangement) is expected to facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high tech items for our defence and space programmes... The membership would create the grounds for realignment of India in the export control policy framework or other WA members, including eligibility for certain licensing exemptions,” the ministry of external affairs spokesperson said on Friday.
India still has to apply for licences for high-tech and dual-use exports, but from now, that process is expected to get easier. This is the second of four non-proliferation regimes India has joined after the India-US nuclear deal was cleared. The important aspect of three out of the four regimes is that China is not a member of them except for the NSG.
The formal application to Wassenaar was made by India in 2016, although the work to align Indian rules and munitions lists to Wassenaar rules began in 2014.
There is some overly optimistic belief in domestic circles that New Delhi could leverage its membership to MTCR and Wassenaar Arrangement for a deal on China’s membership to these groups. China has applied for membership to MTCR but has been kept out because of its strong history of proliferation. But there is a larger narrative building up. In MTCR and Wassenaar, India’s membership was cleared by 35 and 41countries respectively. Most of these countries are also members in the NSG. Therefore, India’s credentials or its non-NPT status did not come in the way in both of these groupings. This also makes China’s argument about a criteria-based membership application process increasingly specious.
Bit by bit, India’s accession to these non-proliferation regimes is making it clearer that China’s political opposition is the stumbling block. South Block sources said India hopes that next year’s NSG plenary will see more countries accepting India’s point of view.
India’s membership to MTCR opened doors for its space programme and its ability to source high-end missile systems and technologies as well as surveillance drones. The Wassenaar membership is important for India, giving it a leg up as a responsible player in the world of dual-use goods and technologies and transfer of conventional arms. It gives India an important voice in shaping global response to regional and global “security developments, advances in technology and market trends…” as the chairman of the Wassenaar Arrangement, Jean-Louis Falconi said. Outside these groups India would have trouble accessing a number of these technologies, because India has been for over 40 years the target of dual-use technology denial regimes. Even after the India-US deal, India hasn’t actually been able to break through these regimes.
It will also boost New Delhi’s chances of joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
“The Plenary meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) held on 6 to 7 December 2017 in Vienna, Austria, has decided to admit India, which will become the Arrangement’s 42nd participating state. The necessary procedural arrangements for India’s admission will be completed shortly,” the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said at his weekly briefing.
On the scope of the Arrangement, he said, “India’s membership is expected to facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high-tech items for our defence and space programmes.”
The MEA spokesperson said, “While membership of the Arrangement would not automatically entail any preferential treatment from other WA members, it would create the grounds for realignment of India in the export control policy framework of other WA members, including eligibility for certain licensing exceptions.”
Membership in the Arrangement has been part of India’s quest for membership in the export control organisations. Membership is expected to declare India kosher, as it aligns its internal systems to these global regimes.