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US to lift ban on ISRO, DRDO soon

January 14, 2011 16:29 IST

The United States has set in motion regulatory changes to lift the ban on India's frontline technology establishments Indian Space Research Organisation and Defence Research and Development Organisation and their removal from the entities list could come soon, top American officials have indicated.

A formal notification of the US Department of Commerce for this is in the advanced stage, they said.

"These regulatory changes will begin the transformation of the bilateral export control policies to realise the full potential of the strategic partnership between our two countries," said Eric Hirschhorn, under secretary for industry and security, US Department of Commerce.

But he did not give any time-line for the removal of restrictions, which is eagerly awaited in India. However, official sources said a formal notification in this regard could well be issued before the scheduled India visit of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke between February 6 and February 11. The US imposed curbs on trade with these defence entities in the wake of nuclear tests carried out by India in 1998.

"The Department of Commerce is working quickly to publish a regulation that will remove Indian space and defence-related entities from the entity list and enact other India-specific export control changes," a senior US official said.

They clarified that these notifications would be India specific. "We have a separate track on these issues in partnership with India," another administration official said.

"As you will recall, in New Delhi, the President (Barack Obama) together with the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) announced a resolution of unilateral export control issues and the President announced his support for India in multilateral fora. That has not changed and we continue to move forward on those steps," the official said.

Obama, during his visit, had assured India that he would remove these companies from the entities list.

"Commensurate with India's non-proliferation record and commitment to abide by multilateral export control standards, the US will remove all civil space and defence-related entities from the Department of Commerce 'Entity List'. Inclusion on this list generally triggers an export license requirement when exported," said a fact sheet issued by the White House during the Obama visit.

The entities to be removed are: Bharat Dynamics Ltd, the four remaining subordinates of the Defence Research and Development Organisation: Armament Research and Development Establishment, Defence Research and Development Lab, Missile Research and Development Complex; Solid State Physics Laboratory.

The four subordinates of the Indian Space Research Organisation: Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant, Sriharikota Space Centre and Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

Such a notification would set a perfect tone for the high-profile US trade delegation's tour of India. Over 70 companies applied to participate in the upcoming mission, which will make stops in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, in order to promote US exports of high technology products and services in key economic sectors: civil-nuclear trade, defence and security, civil aviation, and information and communications technology.

When asked about the proposed license exception which the Commerce Department published in December, a senior official clarified that these had two primary groups of countries.

India was included in the group of countries to which Wassennar Basic List items could be exported without a license under certain conditions, the official said.

The second group of countries was limited to nations that are members of the four multi-lateral export controls regimes or NATO members that are members of at least three of the regimes. India is not a member of all four regimes or a NATO member, the official explained.

Lalit K Jha In Washington
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