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Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

  • It is a multilateral, consensus-based grouping of 35 member countries who are voluntarily committed to the non-proliferation of missiles capable of carrying chemical,  biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
  • It controls the export of the technologies and materials involved in ballistic missile systems and unmanned aerial vehicles particularly capable of carrying nuclear warheads of above 500kg payload for more than 300 km.
  • This is a non–treaty association of member countries with certain guidelines about the information sharing, national control laws and export policies for missile systems and a  rule-based regulation mechanism to limit the transfer of such critical technologies of these missile systems.
  • In 1992, the MTCR’s original focus on missiles for nuclear weapons delivery was extended to a focus on the proliferation of missiles for the delivery of all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), i.e., nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.  Such proliferation has been identified as a threat to international peace and security.  One way to counter this threat is to maintain vigilance over the transfer of missile equipment, material, and related technologies usable for systems capable of delivering  WMD.


  • The MTCR has 35 members with India being the latest member.
  • China is not a member of MTCR, although it put in its application in 2004. It is because several member nations have concerns about China’s dubious proliferation record in supplying missile technology to countries like North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

MTCR Objectives 

1. It is not a legally binding treaty on the members. It is only an informal political understanding.

2. Currently, there are 35 members in the regime including India. China is not a member of the regime.

3. Every member is supposed to establish national export control policies for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, space launch vehicles, drones,  remotely piloted vehicles, sounding rockets, and underlying components and technologies.

4. Every member should look into the following five factors while deciding on a possible  export of controlled items:

i) Whether the intended recipient is pursuing or has ambitions for acquiring  weapons of mass destruction;

ii) The capabilities and purposes of the intended recipient’s space and missile  programs;

iii) The potential contribution the transfer could make to the recipient’s  development of delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction;

iv)The credibility of the recipient’s stated purpose for the purchase; and

v) If the potential transfer conflicts with any multilateral treaty.

Missile Technology Control Regime – Achievements 

  • It has significantly contributed to curbing or slow down the nuclear programmes of some countries.
  • Argentina dropped its joint ballistic missile programme” Condor II” with Egypt and Iraq.
  • Poland and the Czech Republic vanished their ballistic missiles in an effort to join the regime.
  • Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, and Taiwan also withdrew or curbed their missiles or space launch vehicle programs.
  • Recently, it played a major role to hamper Libyan and Syrian missile efforts.

Missile Technology Control Regime – Limitations 

  • It is not a legally-binding treaty. Hence, no punitive measures could be taken against non-compliance to the guidelines of the regime.
  • It has only 35 member countries as full members. Whereas, countries like North Korea,  Pakistan, Iran which have significant missile systems which could deliver WMDs, are not adherent to the regime.
  • Some of such countries are exploring long-range intercontinental missiles and they are also sellers in the arms market.
  • There are incidences of violation of the rules by MTCR countries. In 2007, China secretly sold solid-fuel, medium-range ballistic missiles,” DF 21”, to Saudi Arabia. France sold the  Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missile to the UAE (Black Shaheen) in the 1990s.
  • The USA had bent some rules to give concessions to some Non -member countries aspiring to join the regime. Eg. Ukraine was allowed to retain its Scud missiles irrespective of the rule of destroying ballistic missiles (capable of carrying a 500kg payload for 300km) for the non-recognised nuclear state. Similarly, USA also allowed  South Korea to develop ballistic missiles of the range of 800 kilometres with a 500- kilogram payload.
  • With technological advancement, it is also possible to adapt and develop the existing missiles with a range shorter than 300km and carrying WMDs less than 500kgs to escape the regulations imposed by the regime.

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR): Benefits to India 

  • India has joined MTCR as a full member and also agreed to join the Hague Code of conduct made it bolster its position as a responsible nuclear state and strengthen its case for the membership of other multilateral export control regimes like Nuclear  Suppliers GroupAustralia Group, and Wassenaar arrangement.
  • India can buy high-end missile technology and run joint programmes for the development of unmanned aerial vehicles with other countries. eg. Procurement of theatre missile interceptor “Arrow II” from Israel, military drones like “Avenger” from the USA etc.
  • India can sell its missiles to other non-member countries with comparative ease. eg.  The supersonic cruise missile, “BrahMos”, to Vietnam.
  • ISRO can access the forbidden cryogenic technology from Russia which is required for the space exploration operations.
  • MTCR membership can be used as a bargaining chip against China which is not a full member of the regime and aspiring to be one as it has blocked India’s way to NSG.

Significance of India’s MTCR membership 

India became its member in June 2016 with the consensus of other nations. India has been allowed to retain its ballistic missiles able to deliver a 500 kg payload at least 300 km.

Membership of MTCR is significant to India due to various reasons:

• Boost to Indian defence: 

1. MTCR membership will enable India to buy high-end missile technology and also enhance its joint ventures with Russia.

2. By joining MTCR, the chances of the US exporting Category 1 UAVs, Reaper and Global Hawk to  India have increased.

• India as arms exporter: 

1. India will be able to sell BrahMos, a development that would make India a significant arms exporter for the first time.

2. India had for long eyed Israel’s Arrow II theatre missile defence interceptor to develop an indigenous ballistic missile system but couldn’t do so because of MTCR’s norms. Now, with a  ticket to the MTCR in its possession, India will be able to defend itself against Chinese and  Pakistani missiles.

3. India will be able to buy surveillance drones from abroad like the American predator drones.  The US may also provide UAVs, Reaper and Global Hawk that are used in counter-terrorism efforts.

• Contribution to global proliferation: 

MTCR membership has made India a partner in the international struggle against the proliferation of WMD missile technology.

• A step forward for NSG: 

1. This certifies that India has evolved a strong legal, regulatory and enforcement infrastructure to regulate the export of missiles and missile technology.

2. All 34 members of MTCR are members of the NSG. Thus India is assured of the support of these  34 members in its quest for NSG membership. China is not a member of MTCR).

MTCR Membership – Obligations for India 

  • MTCR membership does not guarantee any special technological entitlement from other members or adherent countries.
  • India needs to align its national laws dealing with development, transfer, and procurement of the nuclear technologies and export policies as per the guidelines of the  MTCR regime which could be stricter and stringent as compared to the existing ones and likely to have implications for the stakeholders.
  • It is unlikely to give an immediate boost to the export of the India missiles.
  • India being a member of the regime will have some obligations like sharing critical information about its military and technological assets, consulting other member countries regarding the export of any MTCR items, especially those notified or denied by another partner.

MTCR: Top five things to know 

» MTCR membership will enable India to buy high-end missile technology and also enhance its joint ventures with Russia.

» MTCR aims at restricting the proliferation of missiles, complete rocket systems, unmanned air vehicles and related technology for those systems capable of carrying a 500-kilogramme payload for at least 300 kilometres, as well as systems intended for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

» India’s efforts to get into the MTCR also got a boost after it agreed to join the Hague Code of  Conduct, dealing with the ballistic missile non-proliferation arrangement, earlier this month.

» India’s membership had been blocked in 2015 by Italy, which seemed to link it to the standoff over the detention of the Italian marines. With the return of the second marine, Salvatore Girone, to Rome on May 29, the sources said, “Italy is no longer blocking the consensus.”

» China, which stonewalled India’s entry into the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the just-concluded Seoul plenary, is not a member of 34-nation MTCR.


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