Two Indian nationals have been arrested on charges of illegally exporting U.S. missile technology to India in a case that U.S. officials say could affect a pending deal on nuclear and space cooperation between the two nations.
Parthasarathy Sudarshan, 46, and Mythili Gopal, 36, both of Simpsonville, S.C., were arrested March 23 based on a 15-count federal grand jury indictment in the District of Columbia unsealed Friday.
Mr. Sudarshan, head of a company called Cirrus Singapore, will be arraigned today in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson. Miss Gopal, an official with Cirrus USA, was released after her court appearance in South Carolina.
According to the indictment, the two conspired with at least two other Indians to circumvent the U.S. Arms Export Control Act between 2002 and 2006 by purchasing U.S. electronic components used in missiles, sending them to Singapore and then re-exporting them secretly to India's missile and space-launch manufacturer.
The items included Static Random Access Memory computer chips made in Phoenix that are designed to withstand extreme temperature changes and have applications for missile guidance systems. They were shipped without a required export license to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), an Indian government manufacturer of space launchers and missiles, the indictment states.
One e-mail in the case quoted Mr. Sudarshan telling others involved in the case that "our intention is not to make profit on this order but to service VSSC."
Other related equipment was described as high-technology capacitors, semiconductors and resistors all with missile applications. The defendants provided false end-user documents to hide the Indian missile maker as the purchaser, the indictment stated.
The goal of the illegal exports was to "to supply government of India enterprises on the entity list with critical electronic components needed in the production of missiles and missile launch vehicles," the indictment said. The entity list is a list of companies and foreign government entities that are restricted from buying U.S. military goods.
Illegally exported U.S. components, including the i960 microprocessor, also were sent to India to develop its Tejas light combat aircraft, according to the indictment. The indictment states that Mr. Sudarshan and Miss Gopal met with an Indian Embassy official in arranging the illicit purchase of 500 of the i960 microprocessors.
A Bush administration official said the case could undermine congressional support for a nuclear and space cooperation agreement with India that was announced in 2005.
But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States and India have "strong" ties and "this will not change" because of the missile technology case.
"This is a law-enforcement matter that began before our efforts to conclude a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement," he said. "The arrests of these individuals are not connected to our efforts to conclude an agreement."
The agreement calls for loosening U.S. controls on the sale of nonmilitary nuclear power goods and nonmilitary space launch equipment, provided India's government agrees not to divert the goods to missile and nuclear arms programs.
Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Arlington, said the arrests "raise questions about whether or not we can actually trust the Indian government when it says it's not going to divert high technology we're going to be giving them in the nuclear and missile areas for illicit weapons activity."