ISRO Chief Too Busy With Scandal to Meet With U.S. Commerce Secretary

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Gary Locke

A scheduled meeting between ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was canceled by the Indian side due to the ongoing Devas Multimedia controversy:

The scheduled meeting between Locke and Radhakrishnan was to take place in Bangalore last week where the commerce secretary also visited the air show. With Isro finally out of the US “entities list”, the meeting was to explore commercial cooperation including satellite launches and other applications.

But with Isro’s commercial arm Antrix precisely in the middle of a controversy surrounding allegations that it sold space-segment airwaves cheaply to Devas Multimedia and the Prime Minister’s Office under opposition fire, Radhakrishnan did not keep his date with Locke. He was busy putting together the government’s defence….

The Devas deal is of interest to the US as well with Columbia Capital being a partner in the project. Devas is contesting the government’s intent to cancel the deal that would see the firm deliver wi-fi services through a portable device. The abrogation of contract is seen as a serious issue having a bearing on business confidence of US firms, sources said.

Locke was in India last week leading a 24-company trade mission that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The U.S. recently lifted high-tech trade sanctions against ISRO and other Indian organizations and companies, opening the way for cooperation in a broad range of areas.

In 2005, ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix, signed a contract that gave Devas Multimedia 90 percent of the S-band capacity on two satellites that the Indian space agency is building. Critics say the agreement is a sweetheart deal for a politically-connected company involving extremely valuable spectrum. The Indian government, which denies the charges, say it wants to cancel the deal because the scarce S-band spectrum is needed for security and defense purposes.