US likely to ease export control

DRDO, ISRO may be out of Entities List

With the first Indo-US Strategic Dialogue scheduled to take place in Washington on June 3 next, sources in New Delhi said that President Barack Obama’s administration now appeared ready to consider removing at least some key institutions under DRDO and Department of Space from the ‘Entities List’ of the American government’s Department of Commerce.

New Delhi is likely to prod Washington once again to expedite the process of lifting the restrictions on transfer of high technology from the US to India during the strategic dialogue, which will be jointly chaired by the External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his American counterpart Hillary Clinton.

Strategic partnership

“They (the US officials) are also very keen to remove some of the Indian organisations from the Entities List to boost our strategic partnership,” said a highly-placed source. Sources said that the US and Indian officials were now engaged in a process to identify the units that should be removed from the Entities List at the earliest.

The Entities List of the Bureau of Export Administration of the US Department of Commerce has been an irritant in the ties between New Delhi and Washington ever since Clinton’s Administration imposed sanctions on India after the nuclear test in Pokhran in 1998, tightening export control to certain organisations in India.

Though the US later partially lifted restrictions on some government organisations and public section undertakings in India, many other key institutions like ISRO and several units of the DRDO are still on the Entities List. Institutions on the Entities List require special authorisation to import certain high-technology items from the US.

Denial of licences

India has been pressing the US for further easing its high-technology export control in view of the changing realities in the ties between New Delhi and Washington, particularly after the two countries clinched the civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2008. When US Defence Secretary Robert Gates came here on January 20, his Indian counterpart A K Antony conveyed to him New Delhi’s concern over Washington’s denial of export licences for the Indian Armed Forces’ requirements.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao too raised the issue when she travelled to Washington in March and co-chaired with US Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Dennis F Hightower, the Indo-American High Technology Cooperation Group meeting.

Sources said Washington would possibly start with removing the ISRO from the Entities List, but might want New Delhi to agree to sign the proposed Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) before it does the same for defence establishments in India. The CISMOA provides for installation of American communication systems on US-made military aircraft with certain guarantees.

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