Indian PM defends letting US verify technology end use

NEW DELHI; Probably the most significant outcome of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to India last week was an umbrella agreement on end-use monitoring/verification of acquired high tech defence purchases the two countries have worked on for years to accomplish. The pact, however, immediately faced a barrage of criticism from opposition parties and critics who claim the government has “sold out” and “compromised India’s sovereignty.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday rubbished suggestions that his government had “compromised” on sovereignty, telling Parliament that the end-use monitoring agreement with the US “does not compromise our sovereignty” and will not allow American inspectors to visit Indian military installations. Instead, such an agreement was a mandatory requirement under US law, which it followed in sales to every country.

India and the United States have come to an understanding on the text of a “generic” end-use monitoring clause that will be added to all future contracts to purchase American defence hardware. Signing the agreement with the US would allow Indian defence forces the option to diversify the sourcing of their equipment and streamline the process of acquisition. According to analysts, the Indian agreement is probably the least intrusive among all such US agreements, with no provision for any unilateral action by US inspectors.

“What we have now agreed with the US is a generic formulation which will apply to future such supplies that India chooses to undertake,” Singh said. “By agreeing to a generic formulation, we have introduced an element of predictability in what is otherwise an ad hoc case by case negotiations on each occasion.” For almost two decades, India and the US have entered into end-user verification agreements for each piece of defence equipment purchased from that country.

“All countries, including India, are particular about the end uses to which exported defence equipment and technologies are put and for preventing them from falling into wrong hands,” Singh said. Stating that India’s interests had not been compromised, Singh said, “Nothing in the agreed text compromises India’s sovereignty.”

“There is no provision for on-site inspections or granting of access to any military site or sensitive areas,” the Prime Minister said, seeking to allay apprehensions that the government has allowed intrusive inspections of its sensitive military sites.