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Supercomputer for Saha

Washington, Sept. 30: Calcutta's Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics is the first beneficiary of the completion of the first phase of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) by India and the US.

The 54 year-old institute founded by Prof. Meghnad Saha, a pioneer in introducing nuclear physics in the curriculum of Calcutta University, is to get a Cray XD1 supercomputer with 96 compute processors and over 422 billion calculations per second, to be installed there by the end of this year.

A press release issued in Seattle by Cray Inc., makers of the supercomputer quoted Prof. Bikash Sinha, director of the institute, as describing the acquisition of the Cray XD1 as the start of 'a new chapter of excellence using supercomputers' at the institute.

'The tantalising predictions of lattice gauge theory hopefully will become transparent with the Cray XD1', Sinha was quoted as saying in the press release.

The company's announcement in Seattle came during a day of quick developments on NSSP just a fortnight after foreign secretary Shyam Saran signed a document here concluding the first phase of NSSP and outlining steps for its second phase.

The document was reviewed and approved last week by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush in New York.

In other developments related to NSSP, the US commerce department's Bureau of Industrial Security, which administers America's export control laws, lifted sanctions against specific subordinate entities of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

These entities which can now freely get advanced scientific equipment and high technology from the US within the ambit of America's overall non-proliferation laws are: Isro Telemetry Tracking and Command Network, Isro Inertial Systems Unit, Liquid Propulsion Systems Center, Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant, Space Applications Center, Sriharikota Space Centre and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

Some entities under the department of atomic energy have also been freed from the US administration's entity list which prohibits exports to them for their role in producing weapons of mass destruction.

The commerce department said there is a presumption of approval for sales to these entities, but in the case of exports of items covered by US non-proliferation legislation, requests for such exports will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

While pending sales to many of the entities, now freed from sanctions, will be speeded up, the export of a supercomputer to the Saha Institute is the first definitive action to be announced in high technology sales to India after the conclusion of NSSP's first phase.

It marks a change from the years when the US dragged its feet on the sale of a supercomputer to India even for meteorological purposes.

The significance of the export to Calcutta is that it is for an institution working on nuclear science. The US has been wary of even issuing visas for nuclear researchers to travel here until Bush and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee unveiled the NSSP in January this year.

Underling that NSSP does not mean anything like a free for all in Indo-US high technology trade, the US yesterday sanctioned two Indians, Dr C. Surender and Dr Y.S.R. Prasad, for violating America's Iran Non-Proliferation Act of 2000.

State department spokesman Richard Boucher said there was 'credible information' that 14 entities and individuals from various countries sanctioned yesterday had transferred one of several categories of prohibited items to Iran.

'I can't identify in any particular case what it was they might have transferred. But it is missile technology, things ' items that contribute to weapons of mass destruction,' Boucher said.

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