NEW DELHI, India, March 27, (Reuter): Indian officials responded cooly today to a reported U.S. offer to sell India a supercomputer less powerful than it sought, saying it showed Washington’s lack of sensitivity to Indian concerns when asked about a New York Times report that the United States had offered New Delhi a supercomputer generations inferior to the type it requested, an official told Reuters: “If the US. is doing that, they have not been sensitive to Indian concerns”.
He declined to confirm the report directly but said India had received an offer of a supercomputer from the United States “and we are considering it”.
Sounding disappointed and dismayed he added, “We do not wish at this stage to say whether itis the ‘computer we were looking for, or a more or less powerful model’.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, added, “An announcement will be made in 10 days to two weeks’ time”.
India has sought for more than two years to buy an advanced supercomputer primarily for monsoon forecasting. But the sale has been held up by US. Security concerns prompted by India’s closeness to the Soviet Union, its chief arms supplier.
The technology is some of the most advanced in the western world and has been made available thus for only to close US. Allies. While India has said it wants the supercomputer primarily for scientific research it could also be used for advanced nuclear weapons design.
The New York Times in today’s editions said U.S. officials in Washington had notified India it would be permitted to buy a supercomputer somewhat less powerful than had been sought.
The newspaper said the decision has dismayed Indian officials who have insisted a more powerful model was needed for monsoon forecasting and other scientific uses.
Indian officials have said in the past that the U.S. decision on the supercomputer sale would be a test of American willingness to improve relations.
It also, they have said, would demonstrate American sincerity in implementing a memorandum of understanding on the transfer of advanced technology signed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Reagan in 1985.
Indian and USS. Officials have been negotiating for the past year on security provisions for a possible supercomputer installation to prevent the technology some of the most advanced in the world from falling into eastern bloc hands.
The talks had sought to balance US. Security concerns with Indian sensibilities on sovereignty.
The last round ended several months ago and sources close to the talks told Reuters at that time that both sides had made concessions in excess of their instructions and had recessed for consultation with their governments.
The sources said there was considerable U.S. Opposition to the sale, largely from defense officials. Indian officials, however, had told privately they expected the sale to be approved.
In a statement on the New York Times report the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi said India was being offered a “powerful supercomputer relevant to its needs” under an agreement between the two governments. He declined to comment when asked if the supercomputer was less powerful than that requested by India.
“We have recently told the Indian government that we accept our mutual agreement as the basis for the sale of a supercomputer.
“The agreement is a significant one providing India with access to a powerful supercomputer relevant to its needs”, the statement said.
India had sought the supercomputer, preferably the X/MP2 model manufactured by Cray Research of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to further research into medium and Longterm monsoon forecasting.
The computer would be used to construct a model of monsoon behavior, a project involving inputting thousands of pieces of data from sources worldwide. Scientists involved in the project have said that only a supercomputer capable of millions of calculations a second could be used for a workable model.
The model could then be used to issue medium range four to 10 day forecasts of the annual monsoon on which most of the subcontinent’s agriculture depend.
There are about 300 modern supercomputer installations in the world, all in North America, Western Europe and Japan. The most advanced machines feature arrays of processors and can make thousands of millions of calculations a second.
The most advanced Cray machines are literally immersed in a cooling fluid and resemble state-of-the-art fish tanks. Most supercomputer uses have been highly classified and involve weapons design, defense simulations and atomic research. But peaceful uses have included weather system modeling and basic research into molecular structures.