Indian scientists welcome US move to lift export controls


Bangalore: Indian space and defence scientists Monday welcomed the announcement by US President Barack Obama to remove Indian organisations from the Entities List for importing high technology items from US firms.

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“It’s of great relief for us and of help to American firms. We hope what has been said orally will be in black and white soon,” Defence Research & Development Organisation’s (DRDO) chief controller (R&D) Prahlada told IANS here.

Echoing Prahlada, eminent rocket scientist and Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) former chairman G. Madhavan Nair said it was a good move and would strengthen space cooperation between the two countries.

“I welcome the move. It will help us strengthen space cooperation between India and the US,” Nair said.

In his opening remarks at the press conference in New Delhi, Obama agreed to remove Indian organisations from the entity list and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the decision.

As part of sanctions against India following Pokhran-II nuclear tests in May 1998, the then US administration had put Indian organisations such as the state-run DRDO and ISRO on the entity list, which entails US firms to seek prior clearance of its commerce department for exporting high-tech technologies which could be of dual use.

Though sanctions were lifted subsequently, various units of DRDO, ISRO and the Indian Atomic Energy Commission continued to be on the entity list, denying import of critical components and sensitive technologies.

“We will be able to buy components and test equipment without delay, which has been the bane due to the curbs. Lifting controls is also good for the US because its companies will get business from us,” Prahlada said.

Noting that the restrictions not only delayed the clearances, but also forced Indian firms to scout for components and machinery from other countries and develop them indigenously, Prahlada said the denial of dual use technologies had affected some projects.

“Delays used to take place. We used to place orders. But clearances used to take time as they involved lot of procedures and papers. When controls are lifted, the movement will be faster and we hope the US companies will be able to accelerate exporting what we will need,” Prahlada said.

Space Commission member Roddam Narasimha, however, said he would rather wait for the US policy decision in fine-print early to see if the removal of controls have any rider or condition.

“I think lifting the controls will lead to greater cooperation and development of high-end technologies by Indian organisations and private companies, as the US continues to be a leader in the technology space,” he said.

With both the countries also deciding to strengthen relations in defence and space by engaging in collaboration and partnership, Narasimha said the removal from the entity list would help American high-tech firms more than Indian organisations as new deals and projects would lead to more export of critical components and sensitive technologies.

Scientists at the Indian space agency also hailed Obama’s announcement and hoped the policy decision would become a reality soon so they could make best use of the emerging technologies and products in various current and future projects.

“We look forward to the implementation of the policy decision and working with American firms without the legacy of prolonged delays and heavy paper work that used to make the import of high-end equipment a difficult process,” said an ISRO official who declined to be named.