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First step to US tech transfer

New Delhi, Nov. 13: Washington and Delhi today took the first big step towards smooth transfer of dual-use and sophisticated American technology to India.

To cut through bureaucratic red-tape, the two sides decided to set up a cooperation group that will help in developing a “new statement of principles” to govern the high technology trade.

Transfer of dual-use and sophisticated technology from the US has been a sticky subject between Washington and Delhi. For years, Delhi has been demanding access to such technology but Washington insisted that India needed to have stricter export controls, especially in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The decision to set up the group came at the end of the two-day discussions that US under secretary of commerce Kenneth Juster had with the Indian leadership. Juster and his team that has representatives from the White House and the state department held detailed talks with the Indian delegation led by foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. Today, they met foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, defence minister George Fernandes and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra.

A joint statement issued by the two sides this evening said “the two governments have agreed to create the group comprising senior representatives of relevant departments of both countries”. The panel would be the first that the US has with any country and its first meeting is scheduled to be held in Washington early next year.

Senior South Block officials described the decision to form the group as a positive move but said they would wait and see how it worked out. “We would like to see how things shape up in the coming months before adding anything more on it,” said a foreign ministry official.

The statement said the group will “work towards developing a new statement of principles governing bilateral cooperation in high-technology trade that broadly advances our relationship in this area, including addressing ways to increase trade in dual-use goods and technologies”.

It said: “The two sides recognised the improvement in this area and pledged to think boldly and creatively about steps that could be taken to further enhance high-technology trade in a way that reflects their countries’ new relationship and common strategic interests.” They also decided to enhance cooperation in export control.

“We have agreed to consider co-operative steps in civil, nuclear and civil space areas and create conducive environment to promote high technology trade by removing legal and regulatory obstacles coming in the way,” Juster said at a news conference this afternoon.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said today’s agreement was reached with the aim to make things easier for Indian exporters and American vendors. Asked if India will be able to get some of the dual-use technology it has so far been denied, Sarna said the sanctions imposed by Washington after the 1998 nuclear tests have been lifted and the group will help streamline licensing procedures.

Certain US items, he added, had not been proscribed for trade with India and were only subject to licensing procedures, which the group would look into.

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