US to reform high-tech export laws for India

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NEW DELHI - Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s “historic” visit to India next month, the US Thursday signalled the easing of high-tech exports, saying it will reform “export control policies” so that New Delhi is treated as “a partner and not a target”.

“We will work with India to adapt and reform export-control policies so that they reflect the realities of the 21st century,” US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns told reporters here after talks with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

Hinting at the easing of high-tech exports to India, widely seen as a potential key deliverable during Obama’s visit, Burns said the US wanted to see New Delhi as a “partner and not a target,” an oblique reference to restrictions barring exports of dual use high technologies.

Burns promised that the US would work with India to realize the “full potential” of the civil nuclear deal.

The 2008 landmark deal contains a larger promise of dismantling technology denial regimes against India but many Indian firms continue to face sanctions.

India is hoping that the US will announce the end of high-technology sanctions when Obama flies to Mumbai and New Delhi in early November and remove institutes like the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from the list of banned entities.

“The US has deep strategic interest in India’s rise as a major power. The US is committed to support India’s emergence to reflect new international realities,” he said.

Stressing that Obama’s visit will bring tangible benefits in areas ranging from health and education to counter-terror cooperation, Burns said the US was looking forward to a “successful and historic visit”.

“We have a very rich agenda,” Burns said, adding that the two sides will intensify their cooperation in areas ranging from health and education to expanding counter-terror cooperation to securing global commons.

Besides meeting Rao, Burns and US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake also met External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon to firm up deliverables during the Nov 6-9 visit of Obama.

At the meetings, India conveyed its concerns over curbs on outsourcing and pressed for the dismantling of restrictions that bar US high-tech exports to New Delhi, well-placed sources said.

“Discussions centred on President Obama’s upcoming visit, as well as regional and multilateral issues that advance the US-India bilateral relationship,” said the US embassy in a statement.

Burns will also travel to Kolkata to meet West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan, a former National Security Adviser who played a key role in complex negotiations leading to the signing of the civil nuclear deal.

Obama begins his visit from Mumbai on the evening of Nov 6 - his longest state visit to a foreign country since becoming the US president.

In Mumbai, he will stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel Palace and Tower, which was attacked by Pakistan-based terrorists Nov 26, 2008, and visit other key sites linked to the attack.

Obama will address a meeting attended by the Indian business world in Mumbai before touching down in New Delhi on the evening of Nov 7.

Nov 8 is expected to be full of back-to-back engagements starting with a grand ceremonial reception followed by official talks with Manmohan Singh.

Plans for an address by Obama to the joint session of parliament Nov 8 are being firmed up, official sources said.

Obama flies out of India to Indonesia on the morning of Nov 9.

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