Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting on Tuesday with President Obama began on a propitious note as members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), agreed to admit India, in a triumph for the prime minister.
A deadline for members of the 34-nation group to object to India's admission had expired on Monday without any raising objections. Strong US backing set India up nicely for membership as rival China does not belong to this elite club of 34 countries that control trade in missile and space technology.
This will give India access to high-end missile technology from across the world and will allow India to purchase top-of-the-line missile systems.The MTCR will also pave the way for India to sell its supersonic BrahMoscruise missiles, which it developed jointly with Russia to third countries. It’s a feather in Modi’s cap, that the development will make India a significant arms exporter for the first time.
"I want to thank my close friend President Obama. We discussed a range of issues. I also thank the US Congress for inviting me," Modi said at the joint press conference after his working lunch at the White House.
The Obama administration has strongly backed India's membership into MTCR and three other export control regimes — the Australia Group, Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.
Rome had earlier objected to admitting India into the missile control group because of its spat with India over an Italian marine.
However, Salvatore Girone, who was held in custody at the Italian embassy in New Delhi for four years over the killing of two Indian fishermen in an anti-piracy operation in 2012, was recently allowed to return to Italy. With the matter now resolved, Italy did not object within a 10-day deadline after the group's chair, the Netherlands, wrote to members suggesting India be welcomed.
With the coveted MTCR membership in the bag, India and the US are now expected to fast-track their discussions on the sale of Predator drones to the Indian military. The Predator can fly 770 miles — less than half the range of an F-16. But that's far enough to make the drone a valuable surveillance asset — and armed with two laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, the Predator can destroy, as well as seek.