Nambi Narayanan sees U.S. hand in ISRO spy case

Former ISRO scientist tells court that U.S. wanted to thwart India’s cryogenic programme

August 06, 2021 08:07 pm | Updated 08:08 pm IST - KOCHI

The agenda of the U.S. to thwart the possible development of cryogenic engine by India was accomplished by that country’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in connivance with the investigators of the ISRO espionage case, Nambi Narayanan, former ISRO scientist, told the Kerala High Court.

He was opposing the bail pleas of former Gujarat DGP R.B. Sreekumar, two former police officers, and a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer in the ISRO espionage frame-up case.

Mr. Narayanan said that if India had developed the technology, most countries would have approached India for launching satellites as there was huge difference between the cost of their launch in India and the U.S.

ISRO’s plans

This had prompted the U.S. to see to it that India did not develop cryogenic engine technology. In 1992, the U.S. had threatened India and Russia not to facilitate a transfer of cryogenic engine technology from Russia to India, Mr. Narayanan said. In 1994, India renegotiated with Russia and inked an agreement to purchase cryogenic engines, without any associated technology transfer. The plan of the ISRO was to develop cryogenic technology indigenously after procuring cryogenic engines from Russia. He was appointed as Project Director and D. Sasikumaran as Assistant Director of the Cryogenic Engine Development Project.

The U.S. was under the impression that Russia had transferred production technology too to India along with the cryogenic engine sale. Hence, the U.S. was waiting for an opportunity to thwart the possible development of cryogenic engines by India.

Mr. Narayanan said he had realised the agenda only when he was arrested in the espionage case. He claimed that Rattan Sehgal, who was associated with the ISRO case investigation, was caught red-handed by the then IB Chief, Arun Bhagath, who had confronted him with nine video clips of his unauthorised meeting with U.S. diplomats.

He was accused of having worked for the CIA, which led to his unceremonious exit from the IB in November 1999. The false case shattered the ISRO and sabotaged the development of cryogenic engine in 1994-1995, he said.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.