U.S. concerned over illicit technology procurement by Russia for war: official

U.S. concerned over illicit technology procurement by Russia for war: official

Senior strategic trade official says India akin to NATO partner, despite USTR putting India on “Priority Watch List”

The U.S. is looking closely at export controls of technology companies around the world, including in India, in order to ensure that Moscow doesn’t “backfill” technology needed for manufacturing weapons during the Ukraine war, a senior American official said on Friday.

Speaking ahead of the first India-U.S. Strategic Trade Dialogue due to be held next month in Delhi, the official also said that compared to its concerns over China’s military appropriation of dual-use technology, the U.S. shares a “common security outlook” with India and has an ease of cooperation comparable to NATO partners.

“We are looking at companies around the world being used by Russia to facilitate its illicit procurement, the items that the 39 economies have cut off from export to Russia, they’re still trying to get them to use in their war machine,” Thea Rozman Kendler, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), said.

“We’re particularly concerned about that. So we’re working with partners all over the world to make sure that Russia isn’t using them to backfill the technology,” Ms. Kendler said.

Ms. Kendler, who was in Delhi for meetings with officials, also travelled to Bengaluru to address a workshop of U.S.-India Space Technology Industry Workshop on Export Controls, co-sponsored by the U.S. Mission in India and the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum. The Indo-U.S. Strategic Trade Dialogue, to be held between Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra and Alan Estevez, Under Secretary, Bureau of Industry and Security in U.S. Department of Commerce, will be one of a number of official meetings being held this year ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit to Washington, expected in June.

The new U.S. Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, also landed in Delhi this month and is expected to receive his credentials in the next two weeks.

Among proposals being discussed ahead of the visit is an application from engine manufacturer General Electric (GE) to manufacture engines for India’s LCA-2 locally and co develop a new jet engines for India’s future fighter aircraft. 

Ms. Kendler declined to speak about IPR issues as well as progress on the jet engines proposal, which if announced would mark a new chapter in Indo-U.S. cooperation.

To a question from The Hindu, Ms. Kendler said that “when a country has strong export control protections like India does, like we do in the United States, that also has the ancillary effect of stopping IP theft, because you’re looking at intangible transfers of technology”.

Despite the confidence, the U.S. has passed many strictures against India over trading and IPR concerns. In June 2019, the US rescinded India’s GSP status for preferential export tariffs, and in its latest “301” report on IPR released this week, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) retained India on its “Priority Watch List” along with Russia, China, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile and Indonesia, and said it “remains one of the world’s most challenging major economies with respect to protection and enforcement of IP”.

“There’s actually very minimal licence requirements for India, we treat India as though it were a NATO partner under [India’s] export controls … India, as a major defence partner, does receive benefits under our system that other countries do not receive,” Ms. Kendler said in response to a question about areas of concern during her meetings in Delhi.

After their meeting in Tokyo in May 2022, Mr. Modi and U.S. President Joseph Biden had announced the launch of the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) to expand strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation, which the National Security Advisers of both countries met for in January, while a meeting of U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar decided also to hold the Indo-U.S. Strategic Trade dialogue on export control concerns.

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