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Bilateral trade with India in high technology will continue irrespective of the fate of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal and US's restrictive export regime, said US Undersecretary for Commerce and Industry and Security Mario Mancuso on Thursday. Mancuso is in India to co-chair, along with India's Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, the sixth meeting of the India-US High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG).
The group, which was set up in 2002, explores ways to identify and remove barriers to trade in biotechnology, defence, information technology and nanotechnology.
"I am not making a hard connection between the nuclear deal and high technology trade. We are looking actively, constructively at expanding high technology trade with India," Mancuso said.
The undersecretary sought to de-couple linkages between the civil nuclear deal and transfer of hi-tech in other areas.
"We believe the civil nuclear deal is very important for the US and is in India's interests. The civil nuclear deal is different. I would disaggregate 0.2 per cent of high technology trade that is restricted to India from the nuclear deal," said Mancuso.
There has been a steady expansion in bilateral trade in high technology items between the two countries. Presently, this trade is equal to 45 per cent of the 17 billion dollars of US exports to India.
The list of Indian entities in the US' restricted list that forbids the US doing business with them has also come down dramatically from 400 six years ago to 13.
The US runs the Validated End-User (VEU) programme for hi-tech trade between countries. The programme was extended to India last year, allowing licence requirements on exports of US-controlled items to certain customers in India.
During discussions Menon put forward India's record in non-proliferation and made a strong pitch to access high technology items that are denied to it under various export control regimes by the US.
"Regulatory framework and licensing procedures should stay in tune with the level of strategic partnership between India and the US," said Menon said.
"We are situated as it is in the arc of proliferation," said Menon, in a veiled reference to role of the A Q Khan network in Pakistan in leaking sensitive nuclear technologies.
Analysts have said that the broader objective of the civil nuclear deal was to achieve dismantlement of larger technology denial regimes that came about as a result of India conducting a nuclear test first in 1974, and then in 1998.
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