Before its nuclear weapons test in 1998, India was considered a nuclear capable country but was not recognised as one. This meant that there was no formal recognition that India was capable of producing both nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
The reason for this was mainly because India had not acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which aims to prevent spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology and promote nuclear disarmament, which India considered discriminatory since it could do so only as a non-nuclear power. That would mean that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the U.S., the U.K., China, France and Russia — coincidentally all nuclear powers, would in effect continue to deny India the recognition as a nuclear power as well, even though it was widely acknowledged as a nuclear capable country after the 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosion” at Pokhran.
What is India’s stand?
India wanted to break out into the open and be recognised as a nuclear power like the other nuclear countries and be part of the global nuclear order, not as a nuclear hold out. For that to happen, India needed to be recognised as a nuclear power and be made part of the global non-proliferation architecture. There are four groupings of countries that multilaterally work to prevent and address proliferation of nuclear weapons, the technology that enables making of nuclear weapons and the systems that are capable of delivering those weapons. The Wassenaar Arrangement is one such. The Missile Control Technology Regime (MTCR) is another; India became a member of this grouping last year. The Australia Group and the Nuclear Suppliers Group are the other two; India is not a member of either yet.
What is the Wassenaar Arrangement?
The Wassenaar Arrangement is a grouping of 42 countries, of which India is the latest entrant (on December 8) that seek to bring about security and stability, by fostering transparent practices in the process of sale and transfer of arms and materials and technologies that can be used to make nuclear weapons with a view to prevent any undesirable build-up of such capabilities. By doing so the grouping hopes to stymie destabilising developments. A further aim is also to prevent these proscribed items and technologies from falling into the hands of terrorists as well. Significantly, one of the purposes of the arrangement is to “enhance co-operation to prevent the acquisition of armaments and sensitive dual-use items for military end-uses, if the situation in a region or the behaviour of a state is, or becomes, a cause for serious concern to the Participating States.”
How do Wassenaar countries do this?
They periodically exchange detailed and specific information on transfer or denial of items or technology, both conventional and nuclear capable, to countries outside the grouping. This is done through maintenance and updating of detailed lists, of dual use and munitions that are considered militarily significant.
There are various classifications of the sub-sections of the lists. The dual use list has for example, the sensitive list and the very sensitive list. The disclosure of such sale or transfer is voluntary.
What are the advantages?
India will be able to more easily access dual use technologies and materials and military equipment that are proscribed for non-participating members. India will also be able to sell its nuclear reactors and other materials and equipment indigenously produced without attracting adverse reactions. It will also be in a better position to collaborate with other countries in developing such capabilities.
Will it help to join other groups?
There are more or less the same countries in all these groupings, with one crucial exception. China, which has been opposed to India’s entry into the NSG, is not part of both the MTCR as well as the Australia Group. So it should be easier to get into the Australia Group.