Pakistan And The Multilateral Export Control Regimes – OpEd


The multilateral export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement are Western dominated, created and controlled cartels. Although these cartels work by consensus, there is an attribute of preferential or discriminatory treatment towards other non-members of these cartels and a clear example is the NSG exemption that was granted to India, while, on the other hand, the MTCR membership for China it has been denied for several years even though it has been offered to small countries. Hence this is the reality of these regimes.

These regimes are trying to bring India into these cartels because India is part of the Indo-US strategic partnership against China. It is also important for India because it gives it the ability to claim the status of a responsible regional power. In 2010, President Obama announced that the US would ensure that India joins these MECRs as well as the UN Security Council. It has been a tremendous boost to India’s ambitions for great power status and has gone a long way in building India as a counterweight to China.

For Pakistan, the worst outcome is perhaps that it allows India to block Pakistan’s membership in such MECRs and if India becomes a member of NSG, India would also block Pakistan’s entry into NSG. From a longer-term perspective, the treatment that India has been accorded despite its dubious missile and nuclear proliferation record over the years undermines the credibility and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation and control regime. Due to India’s importance as a strategic partner of the US, these kinds of proliferation activities are often overlooked and tolerated due to the heightened interest in this partnership. Pakistan is left with only raising these issues with countries that do not have any specific or direct interest but unfortunately these countries are small and weak even if they are European and are unable to change American policies as we saw in the way that the India NSG waiver played out. 

In 2011, Pakistan stated that it is willing to join all four export control agreements and also requested similar treatment for Pakistan as was given to India in the context of the NSG waiver. There wasn’t much progress on any of those issues, as far as the waiver was concerned, the US was clear that Pakistan and India are on different trajectories and have different histories, therefore they would be treated differently. Pakistan received no positive feedback from these cartels. In 2006, Pakistan expressed its willingness to join the MTCR, and then several years later, in 2015, Pakistan circulated a non-paper to the MTCR. However, the response from the MTCR group is still awaited.

Meanwhile, India joined the MTCR in 2016 and is now likely to block Pakistan’s entry. Since 2016, no formal application has been made from Pakistan to the MTCR. It should be underlined here that the Pakistan Export Control List is on par with the MTCR standards and covers items that are included in the MTCR. Therefore, Pakistan is already observing the conditions of MTCR membership without enjoying the benefits of any MTCR membership. As far as the Australia Group is concerned, Pakistan has made no renewed effort to join it and now Pakistan’s view is that our accession to the chemical weapons convention covers almost all the items that are on the Group’s list. So our commitments to the CWC cover almost all of them, hence Pakistan hasn’t pushed Australia Group membership very much. As far as the Wassenaar Agreement is concerned, Pakistan’s participation has been reconsidered and we believe that joining this agreement on conventional arms would be detrimental to Pakistan’s trade and to its emerging aspirations to emerge as an exporter of conventional arms. That’s why Pakistan has not pushed this and also in all these cartels there are obviously double standards that are being pursued by the west.

Pakistan should not seek membership in any of these cartels without a quid pro quo similar to that given to India for its NSG exemption. When India wanted to acquire the NSG waiver, it took on certain obligations, and therefore in that agreement, one of the obligations was to become a party to these MECRs. Therefore, Pakistan’s principled position must remain that we should be given the same kind of quid pro quos and should be given in the same sequence.

The writer is working as a Research Officer at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan

Sher Bano

Sher Bano is working as a Research Officer at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan.

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