The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US echoes Britain on Iraq link

New Delhi, Sept. 26: The US has urged India to maintain tighter control and carefully monitor private companies exporting chemicals and pesticides to Iraq and Iran, which top Washington’s hate list.

The caution comes close on the heels of the British government’s allegation that an Indian company had helped Iraqi President Saddam Hussein rebuild his missile-production infrastructure. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had told his parliament on Tuesday that NEC Engineers Pvt. Ltd, an Indian chemical engineering firm, had helped Baghdad in its missile programme in violation of the UN sanction on Iraq.

India today reacted sharply to Britain’s “selective reference” to the Indian firm and said this was liable to create a wrong impression in the public mind. The licence of the company that had dealings with Iraq has already been cancelled, it added.

“Such selective reference to an Indian firm is liable to create a totally wrong impression in the public mind, which is unfortunate,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said.

“If Iraq has rebuilt its missile infrastructure after the Gulf war, it cannot be without a vast network of procurement essentially from industrial countries,” added Rao.

However, despite India’s anger at the British statement, the US also expressed reservations about Indian companies that have extensive links with Iraq and Iran.

At a two-day Indo-US security and non-proliferation dialogue, which ended on Tuesday, the Americans have urged India to put in place a mechanism for stricter control of the private sector, specially firms exporting chemicals and pesticides.

US assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation John Wolf made it clear that Washington has no problem with the Indian government.

He pointed out that Delhi’s track record on export control was impeccable. However, he said it is the large industrial base, specially companies dealing with Iraq and Iran, which is a cause for worry for the Bush Administration.

Not too many Indian companies export either chemicals or pesticides to Baghdad. However, many do have close links with Iran. Thus, the concern expressed by the Americans seems to aim at either stopping these interactions with Iran, or cautioning India that it needs to be stricter in granting licences to companies dealing with such “rogue regimes”.

“Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to ongoing cooperation in the field of export controls for dual-use items, materials and technologies,” a statement issued by the Indian foreign ministry said.

“India is committed to non-proliferation and vigorously enforcing stringent export control on its indigenously- developed knowhow and technologies.”

The statement added that “both sides agreed, however, that the metric of Indo-US relations will not be defined by these differences and both remain committed to explore and open avenues for further cooperation”. It pointed out that the US has expressed its readiness to work with India to broaden relations in civilian space cooperation. The two sides have also exchanged views on civil nuclear cooperation.

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