GS-2 (Mains), Mains-2018 (English)

Wassenaar Arrangement – Significance for India


What is Wassenaar Arrangement?

-> Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies is one of the four Multilateral Export Control Regime (MECR). A MECR is an international body used to organise state’s export control systems (trade barrier). Other 3 MECR are:

  1. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the control of nuclear related technology,
  2. Australia Group (AG) for control of chemical and biological technology that could be weaponized and,
  3. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) for the control of rockets and other aerial vehicles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

-> The Wassenaar Arrangement is a grouping of 42 countries, of which India is the latest entrant (on Dec 2017) 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.”

-> All permanent members of UN Security Council except China are its members. (China is also not a member of MTCR and Australia group).

-> The Arrangement does not impede bona fide civil transactions and is not directed against any state or group of states. All measures undertaken with respect to the Arrangement are in accordance with member countries’ national legislation and policies and implemented on the basis of national discretion.


Background of Wassenaar Arrangement:

-> Wassenaar Arrangement was established on 12 July 1996, in Wassenaar, the Netherlands, becoming a successor to the Cold War era  Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (CoCom).

-> After World War II, western countries led by the US wanted to restrict any sensitive technology going towards Soviet Union and its allies.

-> By the end of the Cold War, Soviet Union broke up and threat perceptions underwent a fundamental change post 1990.

-> The threat of perception of sensitive material and dual use technology was seen as a major threat.

-> So, CoCom got a reincarnation as Wassenaar Arrangement with Russia and many of East European countries as also its members.


Significance for India:

-> India joining the Wassenaar Arrangement implies that India is also recognised to have dual use technology. There is exchange of notes when countries meet in such arrangements. So, India will gain access to high technology which will help to address the demands of its defence & space sectors.

-> India’s entry into the export control regime would enhance its credentials in the field of non-proliferation despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

-> The WA membership is also expected to build up a strong case for India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

-> Further, since India has low reserves of uranium required for its civil nuclear energy programmes, its entry to the Export Control regimes will help secure the supply of nuclear fuel more easily.

-> It will provide eligibility to India for certain licensing exceptions given only to Wassenaar arrangement member countries.

-> The agreement will also boost India’s Indian defence manufacturing sector and enhance its export competitiveness in the sector.

-> It will also facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high-tech items for our defence and space programmes.

-> 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.


Concerns associated:

-> Critics says 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.



India’s entry into the Arrangement would be mutually beneficial for WA members and further contribute to international security and non-proliferation objectives.

India is now getting a recognition on the global platform which can be seen by recent MTCR entry, International Court of Justice elections and now the Wassenaar Arrangement. It is a step forward for being recognised as a responsible nuclear power. But whether India can be a part of Nuclear Suppliers Group is still a question due to the China’s opposition.


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