The United States and India on September 17 jointly announced the conclusion of Phase One of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership initiative that would envisage the transfer of dual-use high technology to India.
"Implementation of the NSSP will lead to significant economic benefits for both countries and improve region and global security," the statement said.
In January 2004, the United States and India had agreed to expand cooperation in three specific areas: civilian nuclear activities, civilian space programs and high-technology trade. In addition, the two countries also agreed to expand their dialogue on missile defence.
In August, in an exclusive interview with India Abroad -- the oldest and largest circulating South Asian newspaper in North America, owned by rediff.com -- President George W Bush declared that the United States and India would 'continue to work hard together on moving forward the new initiative, the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, to enhance our civil nuclear, space, and high technology cooperation as India's export control and nonproliferation regimes are strengthened."
According to the statement released immediately following the signing of an agreement between visiting Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and US Under Secretary of Commerce for Trade and Security and Export Administration Kenneth Juster, "These areas of cooperation are designed to progress through a series of reciprocal steps that build on each other."
It said, "Since January, the two governments have worked closely together to conclude Phase One of the NSSP. This has included implementation of measures to address proliferation concerns and ensure compliance with US export controls.
"These efforts have enabled the United States to make modifications to its export licensing policies that will foster cooperation in commercial space programs and permit certain exports to power plants at safeguarded nuclear facilities.
"These modifications, including removing the Indian Space Research Organization headquarters from the Department of Commerce Entity List, are fully consistent with US nonproliferation laws, obligations, and objectives.
"The United States and India will continue to move forward under the NSSP, and have a joint implementation group for this purpose.
"The progress announced on Friday is only the first phase in this important effort, which is a significant part of transforming our strategic relationship."
Saran, addressing a press conference at the Indian embassy, said the NSSP "opens the door for much, much more expanded interaction in the field of high technology, particularly in areas like space and nuclear field."
He acknowledged, "This particular phase is more focused on the space side. When we get into the second phase, it will be, perhaps, focused a little more on the nuclear side."
But Saran reiterated that "this is a very important agreement and we are very happy to have this on the eve of the meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh."
Bush and Singh are scheduled to have a breakfast meeting on September 21 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session.
Saran, however, declined to reveal details.
"The details will start becoming available once we complete the process," he said. "What I would like to say at this point is that what we have concluded is something which will make the licensing regime far more liberal than it has been so far and, very important to us, much more predictable.
Asked if India has had to provide any further iron-clad guarantees vis-a-vis stringent export controls, since President Bush had said the NSSP would move forward as India's 'export control and nonproliferation regimes are strengthened', Saran said, "There is no such thing as iron-clad guarantees or less than iron-clad guarantees. You should not see it as an agreement where one side makes demands and the other gives in."This is a cooperative exercise to build up confidence between the two countries and prepare a base from which we can expand commerce in high technology."