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Prasad M.V. asked: When both MTCR & Hague Code of Conduct aim to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missile, what is the difference between them?

A. Vinod Kumar replies: The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an export control grouping, on the lines of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), which issues norms and guidelines on the export (or transfer) of missiles and/or related materials and technologies. The Hague Code of Conduct (HCoC), as the nomenclature indicates, is a code of conduct expected of states in handling their ballistic missile systems or inventories.

Curbing ballistic missile proliferation is a common objective for both initiatives, though neither of them is meant to stop or prohibit the sale of missile systems or their technologies. Rather, both initiatives intend to restrict or control such transfers. While the HCoC should merely be seen as an agreement between signatories on how to ‘conduct’ their handling of missile systems, the MTCR positions itself as a consensual grouping that could formulate the 'rules of the game' when it comes to trading or exports of missiles and related technologies.

Like the NSG ‘trigger list’, MTCR has Annex items divided into two categories. The Category I include a broad range of equipment and technology pertaining to missiles on which members have to exercise restraint in transfer of items listed in the Annex, including complete rocket systems and unmanned air vehicle systems (including cruise missiles systems, target and reconnaissance drones) with capabilities exceeding a 300 km/500 kg range/payload threshold. The Category II includes systems and vehicles not covered in Category I, and capable of a maximum range equal to or greater than 300 km.

The MTCR functions more or less like a cartel of states that have a predominant control over missile technologies. With objectives of ‘technology control’ complementing global non-proliferation efforts, the MTCR is deemed to be a ‘denial regime’ that ensures the trading of missile technologies happens within the framework of safeguards placed by the regime. The HCoC, on the other hand, does not restrict membership and is an inclusive multilateral initiative which could invite all states with missile capabilities to come under its rubric in order to ensure that the code gets widest possible adherence.

The MTCR, as an ever-expanding group, has managed to slow down several missile programmes through stringent measures that make it quite difficult for a potential buyer to access many technologies. The HCoC, for its part, has introduced various measures for transparency and alerting like annual declarations and pre-launch notification for missile as well as space launches (considering the thin dividing line between these rocket technologies).

From 93 signatories when the HCoC came into force in 2002, the initiative currently has over 138 members. MTCR has 35 member states. India became part of both initiatives this year.

Posted on October 31, 2016

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