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India, U.S. set to propel space cooperation

India and the United States start an ambitious chapter in space cooperation this week, marking a U-turn from a long estrangement linked to U.S. sanctions against India’s nuclear program.

About 150 U.S. experts will join a five-day conference in India’s technology capital of Bangalore from Monday (21st June) to discuss collaboration on research, production, trade and satellite navigation.

“This conference really symbolizes our coming together again,” Marco Di Capua, counselor for science and technology at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, told a news conference late on Saturday at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) office.

Officials said the conference will result in a “vision statement” for guidelines, but no deals were expected. The initiative comes against the backdrop of U.S. efforts to enlist India, Pakistan and China in moves to curb weapons of mass destruction and the spread of nuclear technologies while building a common front in its global war on terrorism. It also comes as India’s new communist-backed Congress government seeks to build better relations with the United States, Pakistan and China.

ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said India’s cost-effective space program had paved the way for providing space equipment and software to the United States, which had eased controls on the export of technology and components.

Di Capua said India’s expertise in geographic positioning software would help in remote sensing. India has also received U.S. proposals for payloads on a planned Indian mission to the moon, Nair said.

The conference’s co-sponsors include NASA (news – web sites) and U.S. corporate giants such as Honeywell, Raytheon Co and Boeing Co, which have major stakes in the aerospace business.