A Quest for Self Reliance

GSLV Rocket Test

Just a few months back, India and US signed an agreement on cooperation in Science and Technology (not to be confused with the nuclear deal). The agreement includes areas like basic sciences, space, energy, nano-technology, health and information technology. Needless to say, most of these areas have dual-use capabilities. This seems to be a complete turn around from age old US policy of technology denial to India. One particular example is the transfer of technology of cryogenic engines from Russia to India. India desperately needed cryogenic engine technology for its GSLV programme, to place geostationary satellites, crucial for communications applications. The Russians had agreed to a technology transfer agreement, which was later blocked by US citing MCTR regulations:

Under the initial contract signed in January 1991 the Soviet Union was not only to supply CAB to India as ready-made units, but also the know-how for their production in India. The second Russian-Indian contract concerning the GSLV project, signed in April 1992, provides for the delivery of equipment, assembly and testing of CAB ground support systems by Russia.

However, at the end of 1993, as Russia joined the Missile Technology Control Regime, the terms of the contract were revised and now it provides for the delivery to India of 7 operating CAB specimens without transferring the know-how for their production.
Source: FAS

Obviously, Indian scientists had to go through a slow and painstaking process of re-inventing the wheel. But as they say — better late than never. On October this year, India announced that it has completed qualification of indigenously-developed powerful cryogenic engine. Space daily reports:

The achievement has put the country in a select band of five countries — the US, Russia, France, China and Japan — who have have the capability to launch rockets with cryogenic engines.
Source: Space Daily

The Indian quest for self reliance was more of a compulsion than choice. The country’s progress in science and technology could have been much faster had these technology denial regimes were not targeted against India. Nevertheless, the dedicated efforts of Indian scientists has made the world accept India’s technical prowess. At this juncture, the renewed US policy doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s something like “If you can’t beat them — join em”.

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