NEW DELHI – Almost a year after the U.S. lifted a 12-year-old dual-use technology export control ban on nine Indian space and defense-related companies, the chief of India’s premier defense research agency says the decision has not helped.
“The removal of some DRDO labs from the Entity List by the U.S. has not changed anything for us,” Defense Research and Development Organization chief V.K. Saraswat said recently. “Our experience has been these regulations make it more difficult,” he added.
Saraswat said the country’s defense and space research organizations will still have to go through the stringent process of getting clearances from the U.S. Commerce and Defense departments.
“Whether we are with Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the export rules and regulations apply for us. It is not an easy process and it becomes difficult to acquire them,” he said.
The U.S. policy – announced during President Barack Obama’s visit in November 2010 and implemented in January 2011 – cleared the way for the resumption of high technology defense and aerospace exports to India, thus ending a restrictive control mechanism in place since India tested nuclear weapons in 1998.
Defense experts argue that although India has not received a blanket clearance on dual-use technology exports, the situation will change for the better.
Mrinal Suman, an arms procurement adviser at the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi, told Aviation Week that “the lifting of [the] ban still means wheels within wheels. Even if the U.S. has lifted [the] export ban, it should be visible on [the] ground. The U.S. has given permission for sub-components and sub-energies, but has not given metallurgy.”
Still, the ban’s lifting will be helpful, but “to what degree the U.S. will transfer technology is yet to be seen,” Suman said.
India wants access to homing devices that enable missiles to reach their targets. DRDO has been struggling to achieve the capability but has not achieved it.
“The Indian bodies have been working on a variety of nano technologies but have not yet mastered them. If the U.S. gives the know-how which they have mastered, it will be very useful,” he added.
Ajay Lele, a formerwing commander who currently works with the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, told Aviation Week that the Indian entities in DRDO and the Indian Space Research Organization will benefit greatly “since some of the technologies for dual use will be available more easily. “The Indian entities will now have access to civilian energies besides nuclear energies which were permitted after the U.S.-India nuclear deal,” he said. “The licensing of so-called dual-use goods can be used for either civilian or military purposes.”
Companies removed from the export control list for sensitive items – to which U.S. firms cannot sell dual-use technology with both civilian and military uses without their government’s permission – include subsidiaries of DRDO and ISRO.
However, Saraswat is confident that improving relations between the two countries could help change the situation, “particularly due to the impeccable track record we have of non-proliferation of these defense technologies.”
Saraswat said there is a shift taking place that will ensure India’s access to future critical technologies. “I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope confidence will prevail one day as far as sharing of technology is concerned,” he added.
The entities removed from the export control list are Bharat Dynamics Ltd and the four remaining subsidiaries of DRDO: Armament Research and Development Establishment, Defense Research and Development Lab, Missile Research and Development Complex and Solid State Physics Laboratory.
The four subsidiaries of ISRO are Liquid Propulsion Systems Center, Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant, Sriharikota Space Center, and Vikram Sarabhai Space Center.