| AB Vajpayee and George Fernandes at the DRDO function in New Delhi. (AFP)
New Delhi, May 11: Less than 24 hours after American emissary Richard Armitage left Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has hit out against what he called a discriminatory sanctions regime that was denying India access to technology while rewarding errant nations in the neighbourhood.
Without naming the US, Vajpayee expressed New Delhi’s resentment of waivers and assistance for Pakistan. The Prime Minister’s comments came close on the heels of an American indication that it may consider Pakistan’s request to write off a $1.8-billion debt in addition to the recent cancellation of a $1-billion debt.
“In our near and extended neighbourhood, we can see many examples of double standards in this (sanctions regime). Countries guilty of missile and nuclear proliferation have not attracted sanctions. Some even continue to receive liberal economic assistance,” Vajpayee told scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Vajpayee’s comments are a clear indication that the peace initiative notwithstanding, India will continue to exert pressure on Pakistan, particularly through the US.
The Prime Minister was speaking on the occasion of National Technology Day, which commemorates the nuclear tests of May 11 and May 13, 1998. The nuclear tests provoked Washington to impose more sanctions against India, delaying and even throwing into disarray research on military projects.
Vajpayee said the discriminatory sanctions continue to remain in place despite India stating clearly that its policies were measured and did not have aggressive intent. “... India has strictly exercised a self-imposed restraint on transfer of nuclear, missile and dual-use technologies and materials. We have denied ourselves many lucrative contracts and joint ventures. We have never received any recognition for this,” the Prime Minister said.
Vajpayee pointed out that sanctions were imposed against certain items of trade on India long before the 1998 nuclear tests. They were first imposed after the nuclear test of 1974 even though India was not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Later, more sanctions were added under “the equally discriminatory missile technology control regime”. Some of the sanctions of the seventies and the eighties continue to remain in force even now.
Vajpayee said it was in this context that defence research had to continue and be supported aggressively. He said he was in favour of a proposal from the scientific adviser to the defence minister, V.K. Atre, to give incentives to retain DRDO recruits from the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science.
Vajpayee urged the DRDO to intensify research and produce items that were necessary to combat terrorism. “Military technologies have to be closely intermeshed with military strategies. There has to be intensive coordination between the technology developers and the user agencies of the armed forces,” he said.
Defence minister George Fernandes said there was an effort to underplay the achievements of the DRDO. Referring to the christening of the Light Combat Aircraft last week — an event signifying that the indigenous fighter aircraft project was nearing fruition — Fernandes said the Tejas was indeed using some equipment imported from abroad but it was a product of indigenous scientific effort.
Fernandes also said the criticism against the DRDO that many of its projects were far behind schedule was not fair. Whenever the DRDO has not been hit by sanctions and has been given the wherewithal, its establishments have been successful.