Your editorial on Nambi Narayanan, Nambi Narayanan’s Calvary (20 May) carries several misrepresentations.
There was no “Rolls Royce technology” brought back from the UK and “cannabalised”. When the UK cancelled its “Blue Streak” IRBM programme, the rocket engine test equipment at the test facilities at Spadeadam in the remote (and barrenly beautiful) Cumberland district of England became surplus to UK’s requirement. Some of this instrumentation was offered to, and bought by, India at a throw-away price as a lot. Upon arrival in India, the equipment was sorted, selected, reconditioned and used in the then-nascent rocket test stands at Sriharikota. This perspicacious action saved time and money for ISRO.
On the alleged rejection of the “offer” of cryogenic engine technology from a French company, this phrase: “…but this error of judgement cost [Satish] Dhawan nothing, and he continued to accumulate honours” is not a quote from Nambi Narayanan’s book. Besides, it is absurd to believe that France would have allowed the export to India of a critical technology that she had invested so much in herself, so she could gain access to space independent of the Americans (against the latter’s wishes and inducements), only to see India compete later with France’s own launch vehicle, the Ariane. But ISRO is doing so now, thanks much to the visionary leadership of Satish Dhawan, and the determination of Nambi Narayanan and his team, surmounting will-sapping odds and turns of outrageous fortune.
Dr V. Siddhartha
Member for Launch Vehicles (at pertinent time)
Systems Planning and Analysis Group
THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN REPLIES:
The habit among policymakers in India to explain away past actions of their peers as “Zero Fault” is the reason why India is lagging so far behind countries that in 1947 were far below this country in major indices. Nambi Narayanan saw Satish Dhawan’s rejection of the French offer as deleterious, and the editorial salutes him for his contributions and courage.