Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Bush administration has imposed sanctions on two Indian scientists for selling nuclear technology to Iran and is planning additional arms-related sanctions, U.S. officials said.

The two scientists were identified by the Bush administration as Shri Ch. Surendar and Y. Sivaraman Prasad, both former directors of the Nuclear Power Corp. of India, the state-run utility.

The scientists were among 14 persons and companies that were listed in the Federal Register for their role in transferring nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran in violation of U.S. counterproliferation laws.

Officials said additional sanctions have been approved and could be imposed on India in the near future in response to other Indian transfers of weapons-related goods to Iran.

The additional sanctions were slated to be discussed in New Delhi during meetings this week between senior Indian leaders and Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asia.

Miss Rocca is in India as part of a program known as Next Steps in Strategic Partnership. The talks are focused on ways of loosening controls on the transfer of U.S. high-technology goods to India, which have been restricted because of India’s nuclear arms program and its 1998 underground nuclear tests.

The sanctions on the scientists, which were listed in the Federal Register Sept. 29, are largely symbolic. They bar the scientists from doing business with the U.S. government or acquiring U.S. goods requiring export licenses.

Officials said the Indian scientists were involved in helping Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran has refused to halt production of highly enriched uranium, which can be used for weapons.

However, public identification of the scientists and their role in arms proliferation can be a deterrent that will make further exchanges more difficult, the officials said.

Officials compared the Indian scientists to Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan, who ran a covert network that provided weapons equipment, namely centrifuges, to Iran, Libya and North Korea. But officials said the Indians’ activities were not as damaging as Mr. Khan’s.

U.S. plans for expanding cooperation with India in the area of high-technology and defense goods have been made more difficult by India’s trade with Iran, the officials said.

India and Iran signed an agreement in January 2003 that called for science and technology and defense cooperation. Last month, India’s state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd. announced that it sought government permission to sell Iran several upgraded Super Fledermaus air-defense radars.

The Bush administration is opposing the radar transfer as it could be used to guard Iranian nuclear facilities.

A U.S. trade official said the technology dialogue with India has produced assurances that New Delhi will not provide weapons-related technology to Iran. Also, the government has agreed to allow a U.S. export-control official to be posted at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, to monitor sensitive U.S. technology transfers.

The official said the two scientists’ activities did not appear to be sanctioned by the Indian government. “There are problems and we’re trying to address them in our dialogue,” the official said.

U.S. officials said evidence of the scientists’ involvement in the Iranian nuclear program comes from intelligence information.

Officials would not provide details on the pending sanctions against India but said they involved weapons-related technology transfers to Iran.

U.S. and Indian officials reported making progress in the talks on advanced technology cooperation yesterday. The two nations are hoping to cooperate on civilian nuclear and space technology, high-technology trade and missile defense, a State Department official said.

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