Ignored MTCR Benefits for Indian

 MTCR membership for New Delhi has eased space and missile collaboration with Russia, which could not supply cryogenic engines and other dual use technology missiles to India

By Beenish Altaf (Use Byline Picture)

Amid huge hue and cry over the Indian bid to the NSG membership, India silently went on to become member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in mid 2016 — an Indian diplomatic achievement which was undermined when India entered the elite MTCR group and the membership is still undermine even by the Indian diplomatic experts. May be its India’s diplomatic ploy to keep its MTCR membership benefits under cover and they are not even discussing its benefits that helped them stop any such talks floating in either local or any global media organization.  

The membership not only helped New Delhi to upgrade its supersonic missile Brahmos but enabled India to go up in global supply chains of these technologies and that is why it is investing in projects like the upgrade of Brahmos. That it would like to become a legit supplier is the reason why it is willing to put its supply plans to international scrutiny by having joined the MTCR. While there are statements that are alarmists on both sides, it could be useful to consider other and better-reasoned objectives for any development such as this. Yes, it applies both ways. Otherwise, we will be stuck with the security dilemma.

India joined the MTCR on June 9, 2016 prior to the formal plenary held in Busan (South Korea) on October 17-21, 2016 primarily thanks to the assistance of Russia. As such, India immediately decided to benefit from its entry into the group by deciding on to the enhancement of the range of its supersonic cruise missiles beyond their previously known limit.

Despite the fact that India is heading towards the advancement of its missiles after joining the 34 nation group where, MTCR actually work to restrict the proliferation of missiles, complete rocket systems, unmanned air vehicles, and related technology for those systems capable of carrying a 500 kilogram payload at least 300 kilometres, as well as systems intended for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

India and Russia have agreed to extend the range of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles beyond the current 300 km. The proposal to increase the range has been under consideration for a long time, but it is now formalized after India became a MTCR member this year. It has also been mentioned in the Indian press that only minor changes will be enough to extend the range of BrahMos missiles up to 372 miles.

BrahMos, is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace. The name BrahMos is a portmanteau formed from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia. It is a short-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land.

It needs to be taken into account that Russia has very bluntly welcomed India’s entry into the MTCR group. Russia itself believes that it is a key anti-proliferating member of the group. The membership for India has definitely eased space and missile collaboration with Russia, which could not supply cryogenic engines and other dual use technology missiles to India, because it was bound by MTCR norms. This is because of the fact that the MTCR guidelines prohibit its members from transfer, sale or joint production of missiles beyond 300-km range to countries outside the group. As such India now has the license to increase the range of its missile jointly with Russia.

This joint step by India and Russia is an offensive move that points towards Pakistan, as it was very difficult for the BrahMos with just a 300 km range to target inside Pakistan. After enhancing the range the missile will be able hit anywhere inside Pakistan, and thus has vast regional implications. Indeed, this could be worrisome not only for Pakistan, but also for China.

An Indian military official stated at some point of discussion, that “our threat perceptions and security concerns are our own, and how we address these by deploying assets on our territory should be no one else’s concern.” The statement depicts the aggressive and offensive mode of the Indian mind making. A greater range for the BrahMos would imply that India’s power to strike would get an unprecedented fillip.

Last but not the least, it could be taken from the above that as India is doing this right after gaining MTCR membership, one has to wonder what it would do if its dream comes true of obtaining NSG membership. Such membership would, for sure, lead the way for India to enhance its uranium reserves for military usage.

Analytically, China stonewalled India’s entry into the NSG at the recent June Plenary as it has an impact on the country being an active member of the group, but it could not stall India’s membership to the MTCR seeing that China is not a member. Nevertheless, India is undoubtedly spending more and more in developing its tremendous firepower and strike capabilities. This is alarming for the world in general and the region in particular.

(Author works for the Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad and holds masters degree in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. View expressed are completely personal)