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United States hi-tech sanctions against India to go

india Updated: Oct 21, 2010 02:18 IST
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US President Barack Obama is expected to announce the end of advanced nuclear technology sanctions against India when he arrives on his first state visit to the country in early November.

The end of so-called "export controls" will fulfill one of the most important reasons why India negotiated a civilian nuclear agreement with the US and is being seen as the biggest deliverable of the Obama visit.

Though former US President George W Bush ended India's nuclear isolation, it is Obama who will actually allow India to access US dual-use technology and equipment.

The term "dual use" refers to sensitive technology that has both nuclear and conventional uses. These technologies, that number in the thousands, are tightly controlled globally and were denied to India because of its nuclear tests and refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Officials from India and the US are racing against the clock to wrap up the highly technical agreement in time for the visit, those familiar with the negotiations have told Hindustan Times.

Officials remain cautious, since a set of last minute high-profile US visits, including that of under secretary William Burns, are still taking place.

Dual-use technology sanctions have been tightened against India over the years with more and more technologies being added to the list. These technology sanctions and the number of Indian agencies on the entities list were expanded after the Pokhran II nuclear tests.

This technology straitjacket began to ease after October 2001, with Bush waiving sanctions and then changing its policy on nuclear and missile products from a "policy of denial" to a case-by-case review.

The number of banned entities also came down from 159 to the present 16 agencies. India wants to be off the entities list completely and be rid of export controls.

Winning US support for its membership of multilateral trade control regimes would be useful but would still require much diplomatic effort to persuade other member countries. The expectation is that India may get a substantial part of this package, if not all of it.

"I think we're looking to find a positive way forward here, but we're not quite there yet," US assistant secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said recently, adding, "We need to continue to work on that."

There are three components to the export control negotiations.

The Entities List: Has Indian defence and Department of Atomic Energy organisations, including nuclear power plants and fuel reprocessing and enrichment facilities on it. They can't be sold any dual-use item by US firms.

Recategorisation: India is at the same level as Pakistan and North Korea as far as exports from US are concerned. India expects to be upgraded from this list.

India also wants the US to back its membership to export control regimes for manufacture of and trade in dual use items. These include the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, the Wassenar Convention and the Australia Group.