India, U.S. not to disclose details of missile defence talks

NEW DELHI, OCT. 11. The Indian and American governments have chosen to keep the details of the talks on missile defence to themselves, the visiting U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Commerce, Kenneth Juster, told presspersons this evening.

Asked to comment on published remarks of the U.S. Ambassador to India, David Mulford, that the two countries had already discussed technology and systems, Mr. Juster said he had not seen the quote and would not go beyond what he had said.

Missile defence, along with civilian space, civilian nuclear and high technology exports form a cluster of issues that have been discussed by India and the United States for some time now. The visiting U.S. official did not see many changes between the previous BJP-led government and current one led by the Congress on these issues.

Mr. Juster, who met the Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, the National Security Adviser, J.N. Dixit, and the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) chief, M. Natarajan, today, claimed that "penalties" and not "sanctions" had been imposed by the U.S. against two retired Indian scientists, Y.S.R. Prasad and C. Surendar.

Asked what the U.S. response was to the Indian request to review and withdraw the move against the two scientists, the official said Washington had been engaged in discussions with New Delhi. This was an "ongoing" issue and there would be more discussions.

Giving details of high technology American exports to India, he said the value of such trade in the U.S. fiscal year (ending September 30) 2001 was $27 million. At the end of fiscal 2004, the figure had risen to $90 million.

According to him, the U.S. was working with India to improve export controls and this would continue throughout the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), currently under discussion between the two countries.

Technology group meets

The External Affairs Ministry spokesman said a meeting of the High-Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) between India and the U.S., co-chaired by Mr. Juster and Mr. Shyam Saran, was held today. The two countries agreed that the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Christina Rocca, would be in the capital from October 20 to discuss the implementation of the first phase of the NSSP, which the two countries had agreed to recently.

Ms. Rocca and her Indian counterpart, S. Jaishankar, Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, would also prepare the ground for phase two negotiations under the NSSP.

Asked if the U.S. had responded to the Indian request to lift the restrictions against two of its scientists, the spokesman replied: "Well, I do not have a readout from today's meeting, whether we have a response on that. As I have said, we have already communicated this [the Indian concern]..."

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