Oct. 1: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush managed to melt the nuclear ice in New York but two Indians have suddenly found themselves at the centre of a controversy involving the two countries.
Rejecting a US charge against two Indian scientists of selling weapons and providing sensitive technology to Iran, Delhi today asked Washington to withdraw the sanctions imposed on them.
'No sale of material, equipment and technologies was involved. No transfer of sensitive technology has taken place,' external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said.
'The US government has been requested to review the issue and to withdraw the sanctions imposed' on Ch. Surender and Y.S.R. Prasad, he said.
The US today said it was discussing this issue with India.
Surender and Prasad are former managing directors and chairpersons of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
On Wednesday, the US had slapped sanctions on the two Indians and several firms from China as well as five other countries for allegedly selling weapons or cruise and ballistic missile technology and equipment to Iran.
The nuclear scientists, too, greeted the American allegation with incredulity. Surender ruled out any links with Iran while Prasad said he had worked in that country but on a programme under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
'I was never connected with any Iran programme,' said Surender, who has also worked with the Department of Atomic Energy.
'It could be a mistake,' he added. 'I was not involved in any programme even remotely connected with Iran. In fact, I have never even flown over Iran. In my 41 years of service, I have worked in various capacities at the NPCIL but I had never dealt with Iran,' he said.
Surender, an electronic engineer, headed the reactor programme at NPCIL and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc) and was a committee member in the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
Prasad said the sanction against him was 'meaningless' as the only impact could be that he would not be able to enter the US.
He said he had visited Iran, from where he returned two months ago, to work on a Russian nuclear power project. Prasad said the project had nothing to do with a weapons programme.
On the department of atomic energy's rule that its officials cannot work for a period of two years after retirement without permission, Prasad said he was in Iran as a consultant.
The foreign ministry spokesperson said India has taken up the issue with the US at 'several levels' in the last few days.
'It has been conveyed that we do not share the US assessment,' he said.
'We are discussing this issue with the Indian government,' a US state department official said when asked about India's categorical rejection of the charge and asking Washington to withdraw the sanctions imposed on them.