NEW DELHI, June 27, (Agencies): India on Monday joined an exclusive club of countries controlling exports in missile technology, just a day after bemoaning its exclusion from another elite group that governs international nuclear fuel and technology. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar signed onto the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) aimed at preventing the unchecked proliferation of missiles and their delivery systems.
The foreign ministry, in a statement issued soon after signing the accession document in the presence of the ambassadors of France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, thanked the other 34 members of the MTCR group for supporting its inclusion. “India’s entry into the regime as its thirty-fifth member would be mutually beneficial in the furtherance of international non-proliferation objectives,” the statement said.
Admission in the MTCR was seen as the next step for India in legitimizing its nuclear energy and missile programs after it conducted atomic tests in 1998 that alarmed the international community. The MTCR restricts the proliferation of missiles, rocket systems, unmanned air vehicles, or drones, and the technology for systems capable of carrying a payload of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) for at least 300 kms (185 miles), as well as systems intended for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction.
In 2008, India signed a landmark civil nuclear deal with the United States giving it some access to nuclear materials and technologies. Since then, India has been pushing for its inclusion in the various elite groups that control the export of nuclear materials and regulate technologies relating to conventional, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
India still hopes to secure support for joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group, despite strong objections from China. Last week, at a plenary meeting of the nuclear group in Seoul, India’s membership to the 48-nation group that controls access to sensitive nuclear technology was shot down after China raised procedural hurdles. India, still smarting over being denied entry, on Sunday hit out at Beijing, saying that the issue of its membership of the nuclear group was not going to go away.
External Affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said New Delhi had taken up the issue with Beijing at multiple levels.
“We are going to continue discussing this with China. This is going to be an important element of our discussion with China. We will continue to impress upon them that relationships move forward on the basis of mutual accommodation of each other’s interests, concerns and priorities,” Swarup told reporters in New Delhi.
China is not a member of the MTCR, however. Beijing’s application to join the MTCR is pending, leading to some analysts in New Delhi to say India could use it as a bargaining chip to leverage its entry into the nuclear group. In another development, police have arrested a schoolgirl in northeast India for allegedly cheating during pressure-packed exams that saw her come top in the state in a growing scandal, a senior officer said Sunday.
Authorities in the impoverished state of Bihar have come under intense pressure to crack down on cheating this year during crucial school-leaving exams sat by hundreds of thousands of students. Teachers and state education officials were left red-faced last year after television footage showed scores of desperate parents and others scaling outer walls of buildings to pass books and pieces of paper to students inside taking exams.
Police on Saturday arrested the 17-year-old, who gained the highest results in the state for year 12 in humanities, after issuing warrants for a string of exam-topping students. Authorities became suspicious after the girl, when quizzed by a TV reporter this month, failed to correctly spell “political science”, which she had been studying. She added that she thought the subject involved cooking. “We have now arrested a total of 18 people including (the girl),” senior superintendent of Bihar police, Manu Maharaj, told AFP.
She was arrested soon after she attempted to take a special re-test and interview ordered by the Bihar School Examination Board in the wake of the scandal. Students, especially millions from poor families, are under huge pressure to pass school-leaving exams which are seen as crucial to their chances of a successful career.
Dozens of police, other officials and parents were arrested in the crackdown last year but the fresh scandal has again embarrassed Bihar education authorities. Local media on Sunday quoted investigators as saying that school and other officials were allegedly charging large sums of money this year in return for giving students better exam results.