US may relax tech export controls on India

Barack Obama’s visit to India next month may see an easing of US export controls on technology to the country.

According to a report in the Economic Times, there’s a real “buzz” in industry circles that the US might even remove the key Indian units completely from the banned “Entities List”.

President Obama is due to travel to New Delhi in early November and it looks like defence and technology could both be high on the agenda.

India is denied technology in 11 of the 16 categories but since it has now signed the India-US civil nuclear deal, analysts are apparently saying that this situation should change.

As India has become stronger in terms of its economy and military – rivalling China – so too has it become more attractive to the US to have it as a strategic partner.

And with India widely reported to be keen on spending vast amounts of money on buying Boeing transport aircraft as well as military jet engines from General Electric, it’s believed that Obama could relax the restrictions in areas such as technology and energy.

One of the factors complicating matters is some of the recent activity by India in the tech sector. The Wall Street Journal reports that there are concerns as major technology firms such as Google and Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd face “new and confusing demands to comply with government surveillance and censorship requests” in the country.

Meanwhile, The Hindu Business Line reports there had been hopes that signing the civil nuclear deal with the US would immediately end the restrictions on high-tech exports to India. But there have been concerns in the US that the latest technology could have “dual use implications” in certain fields, and could be used for civilian or defence purposes. It explained: “For instance, hardware and software technologies can be used for manufacturing missiles and corporate work.”

Add to the mix the fact that the US needs Pakistan – a traditional enemy of India – as an ally because of Afghanistan, and it’s one heady brew.