US ease of export controls boost for India's NSG membership bid

US ease of export controls boost for India's NSG membership bid

NEW DELHI: The US decision to move India into tier-1 of licence exception for export of sensitive defence and high-end technologies is being seen as a reaffirmation of US support for India’s
Nuclear Suppliers Group NSG membership bid. India is hoping that this will also put to rest speculation that Indo-US ties have been marred by the unpredictable nature of the Trump administration.

This is also the clearest signal yet from the Trump administration to China that it believes India deserves a seat at the high table of global nuclear commerce because of its unblemished non-proliferation credentials.

There is a strong political message in this as there was a perception gaining ground that the US support to India’s case for NSG membership had been diluted under Trump, or at least it is not as strong as it was under Barack Obama. India will hope that China will review its opposition to India’s presence in NSG in light of this development.

In an official statement, India described the US move as a logical culmination to India's designation as a major defence partner of the US and a reaffirmation of India's impeccable record as a responsible member of the concerned multilateral export control regimes.

This step will further facilitate India-US trade and technology collaboration in defence and high technology areas. We look forward to the US side operationalising the decision at an early date,’’ said a press release issued by the ministry of external affairs (MEA).

Only the US NATO allies and countries which are members of all export control regimes have found their way into the Strategic Trade Authorisation (STA) - 1 category of the US export control regime. STA-1 allows export of controlled items bypassing the need for a ``transaction-specific’’ licence.

This is an exception which the US has made for India and is reaffirmation of India’s role in multilateral export control regimes. There’s a big political statement coming out of this as India becomes a serious player in the global supply chain of sensitive defence technology,’’ said a top government source, adding that India was no longer at the receiving end of the US export control regime.

According to the US authorities, STA authorises unlicensed export of many items on the EAR's (Export Administration Regulations) Commerce Control List (CCL) to a group of 36 countries in western Europe and other "key allies’’ like Japan and South Korea. According to US estimates, if India had been elevated to the STA-1 category seven years ago, it would have resulted in additional trade worth $10 billion between the two countries. India until now had STA-2 status along with Israel and 5 other countries.

The timing of the exception which the US has made for India couldn’t have been better though that it comes ahead of the 2+2 dialogue scheduled for early September. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and secretary of defence James Mattis are expected to travel to India for meetings with their Indian counterparts Suahma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman respectively. India is also currently awaiting a response from the US to its invite to the US President for the Republic Day event next year. Any development on that though is expected only after the 2+2 dialogue.

It (India’s elevation to STA-1) is a sign of trust not only in the relationship but also on India's capabilities as an economy and as security partner, because it also presupposes that India has the multilateral export control regime in place, which would allow the transfer of more sensitive defence technologies and dual use technologies to India and without the risk of any proliferation," Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Singh Sarna, said in Washington.