Proliferation of Weapons: International agreements and organisations

Prevention of proliferation of weapons has been a major concern of international community since the World War II. Though strategic interests and power struggles of some major powers have hindered attempts of weapons control, below are listed some mechanisms which work to ensure that dangerous weapons (especially nuclear weapons) do not get into the wrong hands.

Wassenaar Arrangement (on Export controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies)

  • a voluntary multilateral export control regime (MECR), headquartered in Netherlands.
  • December 2017: India admitted as 42nd member of the agreement
Members of Wassenaar Arrangement. image: Wikipedia.

Australia Group

  • A Multilateral Export Control Regime and an informal group of countries to help member countries identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons.
  • 2018: India admitted as 43rd member.

MTCR – Missile Technology Control Regime

  • informal and voluntary partnership to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.
Members of MTCR. image: wikipedia.

HCoC – Hague Code of Conduct

  • International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation
  • India – member – since 2016

NSG – Nuclear Suppliers Group

  • a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation
  • The group was founded in response to Indian nuclear test in May 1974.
  • the issue of India
    • India is not a member of NSG. It wants to be a member, so as to access nuclear materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes.
    • China opposes India’s membership to NSG on the argument that India is not a signatory to nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). India considers NPT unfair, as it limits nuclear weapons to a few countries (P5), and advocates for complete mutual nuclear disarmament.


Four key export control groups for weapons technologies: MTCR, NSG, Australia Group, and Wassenaar Arrangement – for missiles, nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons, and conventional weapons respectively.
Membership in 3 of these groups enhances India’s credentials in the field of non-proliferation despite not being a signatory to the NPT. These credentials strengthen our bid for membership in NSG, and will help us acquire critical technologies. China is not a member of Wassenaar Agreement, Australia Group, MTCR. (India is the first country to have a nuclear deal with Japan despite not being a NPT signatory – this has been possible because of our non-proliferation credentials and responsible attitude towards nuclear weapons.)

Nuclear Weapons related agreements:


NPT – Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

  • to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to further the goal of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament
  • defines nuclear weapons states as those that have built and tested nuclear explosive device before 1967
    • technically limiting nuclear weapons to the P5 countries (the five permanent members of UNSC).
  • Nuclear states which are not members of NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) are: India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea.

CTBT – Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

  • multilateral treaty
  • bans all nuclear explosions
  • not in Force. India not a member.

India’s policy on nuclear weapons:

India officially announced a moratorium on nuclear testing in its 1999 nuclear policy. The policy also highlighted India’s ‘no first use policy’ for nuclear weapons, i.e. India will not use nuclear weapons in a war until it is attacked upon with a nuclear weapon.

Partial Test Ban Treaty 1963

  • officially Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water
  • prohibited all nuclear test detonations except for those conducted underground
  • India ratified it.

Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

  • July 2017 – UN adopts treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  • The nine nuclear states boycotted the negotiations.
  • First legally binding (for parties) international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons
  • promoted by ICAN – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
    • a coalition of many NGOs worldwide
    • received Nobel Peace Prize 2017

IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency

  • autonomous treaty-based organisation. reports to UNSC and UNGA. headquartered at Vienna.
  • membership-global. India is a member.

More related information:

UNGA First Committee (1946) – on Disarmament and International Security.
Conference on Disarmament

  • an international community forum to negotiate multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements.
  • this forum was used by the members to negotiate Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention.

Nuclear weapons free zones 

  • created by conventions and treaties, and recognised by the UN
  • bans the use, development or deployment of nuclear weapons in a given area.
  • Treaty of Pelindaba (African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty) 2009 – establishes a nuclear weapon free zone in Africa. It was devised after South Africa gave up its plans to build nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Weapons Free Zones shown with Blue. image: Wikipedia.

History of War and Disarmament, chemical and biological weapons:

  • Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 – the first formal statements of the laws of war and war crimes in the body of secular international law.
    • They were largely based on the Lieber Code – on the conduct of armed forces – issued by President of USA Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
  • Geneva Protocol 1925: Protocol for the prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.
    • prohibited use of chemical and biological weapons, but didn’t say anything about their production. These issues were later addressed by Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention.
  • Biological Weapons Convention (1972) (BWC)
    • The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction.
  • Chemical Weapons Convention (1992)
    • The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.
    • administered and implemented by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – an intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Hague, reporting to UN [not an agency of UN though].
    • Classifies chemicals into three categories with highest restrictions on Schedule 1 chemicals – which include sulphur mustard, nerve agents. etc.

Geneva Conventions 1949: comprises treaties which establish the standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in war. These include rights of prisoners of war, and of non-combatants. These do not address warfare or use of weapons in war.

Weisbaden Process

  • A Germany led initiative to promote implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540.
  • UNSC Resolution 1540 sets up legally binding obligations on all UN member states to take effective measures to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to non-state actors.

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