20 July 2009
Space agreement to help launch ‘India-U.S. 3.0’
Special Correspondent
The Hindu

  • End-use pact on defence sales still uncertain
  • Krishna, Hillary to unveil new strategic dialogue architecture
  • Nonproliferation, security, education, etc., covered

New Delhi: Despite last-minute wrinkles, India is still looking to sign an end-use monitoring agreement to ease the sale of U.S. military hardware during the visit here of Hillary Clinton, but the highlight of Monday’s discussions between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and the U.S. Secretary of State will be the unveiling of a new strategic dialogue architecture and the signing of an agreement to facilitate the launch of U.S. satellites and satellites with U.S. components on Indian launch vehicles.

South Block officials say the new dialogue architecture is intended to take Indo-U.S. relations to a higher level, 3.0 — to use Ms. Clinton’s phrase — and will cover areas like nonproliferation, security, education, health and development. Although the U.S. side is keen on India making public the sites where U.S.-supplied nuclear reactors will be located, a final decision has yet to be taken on this in South Block.

The new Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) to be signed on Monday will cover launches involving satellites owned by U.S. government or academic institutions or by third country space agencies and universities which have U.S. equipment on board. Since the components and satellites will have to be integrated with ISRO’s launch vehicles, the TSA will provide for monitoring by the U.S. side to ensure against diversion or misuse of equipment.

In March 2006, Frontline reported that the U.S. was insisting on “a full-fledged TSA, which included restrictive movement of the payload, constant overseeing presence of U.S. escorts, and impermeable firewalls between civil and military payloads.”

According to ISRO officials, the final text of the agreement to be signed follows the standard template the U.S. negotiates with all countries. “Its provisions are essentially driven by U.S. law and India did not have much flexibility during its negotiations,” an official told The Hindu.

The agreement to be signed is apparently an umbrella one — similar to the TSA that China and the U.S. signed — with individual licensing by the State Department likely dispensed with, but India will not yet be able to enter the lucrative market for the launch of U.S. commercial satellites or third country commercial satellites with U.S. components till a separate Commercial Space Launch Agreement (CSLA) is signed. “The TSA is a necessary but not sufficient condition for commercial launches,” said an ISRO official. India and the U.S. have been working on the draft of a CSLA for some time now but there are still major differences between the two sides.

Even after a CSLA, however, ISRO will not be able to launch U.S. communications satellites since these figure in the U.S. Munitions List and require separate certification from the State Department.

A second agreement will also be signed by Mr. Krishna and Ms. Clinton on a framework for “robust result-oriented cooperation” in science and technology for “collaborative research and its commercialisation.”

Ministry of External Affairs officials say this agreement will build on the October 2005 Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement.

The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership of January 2004 envisaged an agreement to allow for the Indian launch of all U.S.-licensed satellites and third country satellites with controlled U.S. items on board but despite the absence of this, the NSSP was declared “concluded” in July 2005.

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