Washington, March 12: Call it a coincidence. Every time there are rumblings of disaffection among New Delhi’s political leadership over the US policy on Iraq, one Indian company comes under sanctions by Washington.
Yesterday, the Americans announced that they were imposing sanctions on Protech Consultants Pvt. Ltd (India) “its successor entities, parents, or subsidiaries” under the Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act of 1992.
State department spokesman Richard Boucher said the “penalties were imposed on these entities for knowingly and materially contributing to Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programme”.
He said “the penalties are specific to the named entities” and do not extend to India. “We do not see this issue as having an impact on US relations with India,” he added.
It was not revealed when exactly Protech had transferred material or technology for Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programme.
But the US government had determined the company’s role in aiding Iraq on February 13. The sanctions were announced in the US Federal Register, the equivalent of India’s gazette, yesterday.
Faced with persistent questions from the media, Boucher refused to go into any details about the company’s guilt under US law or UN resolutions.
Subsequent to the sanctions, the US government “shall not procure or enter into any contract for the procurement of any goods or services from the company for a period of two years”.
Besides, the US government is prohibited from issuing any license for any export by or to Protech Consultants for a period of two years.
Simultaneously, sanctions were also announced yesterday on a Jordanian national, Mohammed al Khatib.
It is not known if Khatib was connected with the Indian company or whether the penalties on him were for some other exports to Iraq.
On February 19, the state department announced sanctions against NEC Engineers Pvt Ltd, an Indian company, and its president Hans Raj Shiv.
Coincidentally, that announcement came on a day when strong opinions were aired in Parliament against the US policy on Iraq.
Yesterday’s announcement, coincidentally again, came a day after it became clear from an all-party meeting in New Delhi on Iraq that there was no love lost for Washington for planning an attack on Iraq.