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July 27, 1998


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US blacklists 63 Indian, five Pak institutions

C K Arora in Washington

Soon after the US administration expelled seven Indian scientists, it blacklisted many of the country's major scientific institutions, including the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Indian Space Research Organisation, restricting their interaction with US-based organisations.

The US energy department has made public a list of 63 such Indian and five Pakistani organisations that will be subjected to US sanctions announced after the May nuclear tests by the two countries.

Though none of the seven asked to leave were involved in research projects associated with nuclear weapons or ballistic missile, they have allegedly been asked to leave because of the institutions they represented in India. These institutions are BARC, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, and the Indian Institute of Technology.

The first two figure in the US energy department's blacklist of Indian institutions with which the US will limit its contacts in the wake of its nuclear-related sanctions.

They have been working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a US government research centre in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on two semiconductor manufacturing projects and a ceramics processing project, said NIST spokesperson Michael Newman.

He said the NIST did not believe the projects had any direct link with Indian's nuclear weapons programme.

The state department has blacklisted these three projects and has put on hold four projects. NIST is running in conjunction with its Indian collaborator, the Indian National Physical Laboratory, all related to scientific standards.

Newman said the state department had asked for a list of projects with which researchers from Indian institutions were associated. The department decided on who should leave the country and conveyed the decision to NIST, which is run by the commerce department.

According to informed sources, the action against Indian institutions and personnel reflects the US administration's decision to go beyond the sanctions mandated by the Glenn amendment under which it had imposed economic sanctions on India and Pakistan.

Earlier, it denied a US visa to Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr R Chidambaram, who was to visit the US to attend an international conference.

The energy department has decided to suspend all its activities with India and Pakistan, except those involving humanitarian assistance.

In all, some 30 Indian scientists were currently working with NIST, Newman said. There was only one from Pakistan. But since an American university had sponsored him, he would stay.

"We are doing what we are being asked to do. It is hard on us because we are in the business of promoting science and technology and industrial research, and it's not normal for us to be doing this kind of thing, Newman said.

He hoped the problem that led to this development would be sorted out soon and the Indian scientists would return to pick up their work where they left off.

Of the seven, one has already left for home. Another had completed his project and was to return in normal course. The remaining five have been given time until August 31, to pack off and go.

According to another report, an Indian scientist from BARC using the intense pulsed neutron source of the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois has also been asked to leave.

The state department official said a review of US science and technology co-operation with India and Pakistan was in in progress. The review hoped to ''ensure that we do not have inappropriate co-operation with India or Pakistan,'' the official said.

He said the exchange programme was very expensive and following the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, the US wanted to ensure that these co-operative ventures did not go against the ''grain of our non-proliferation objective.''

Meanwhile, the US energy department says the sanctions which the US had imposed on India and Pakistan required the suspension of all activities financed by the department with entities in either country, except for humanitarian assistance. It added that personnel from the blacklisted institutions should also suspend visits to the US and that high-level energy department visits to these two countries would also be put off.

Universities with programmes that receive department funding, should seek guidance from the department on whether they should continue activities with these institutions, it said.


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