As an India-US nuclear contact group met for the third time to try and resolve the contentious nuclear liability issue, ahead of US President Barack Obama’s India visit, the US said it will continue to work with India towards implementing the stalled deal.
A contact group comprising diplomats and officials associated with nuclear energy from both the countries was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama during their September summit meeting in Washington aimed at advancing implementation of the civil nuclear deal.
The contact group has met twice to try and find a solution to India’s tough civil nuclear liability law that puts the onus on suppliers for any accident.
Both sides are said to be working towards a proposal to set up a $250 million insurance pool with money from all stakeholders to pay off liabilities.
The stringent Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010 was introduced in parliament when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in the opposition.
Two provisions of the law are being seen as areas of concern for the US, especially section 17(b) relating to channeling of the operator’s right of recourse on suppliers and section 46, which is seen as exposing suppliers to unlimited liability.
The contact groups also comprised representatives of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) from the Indian side and Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi from the US side.
The Indo-US civil nuclear agreement was inked in 2005 between then US president George Bush and then prime minister Manmohan Singh.
It culminated in the formal 123-agreement bill approved by the US Congress and signed into law in 2008.
New US Ambassador in India Richard Verma expressed hope that both sides could see progress in unraveling hindrances towards implementing the civil nuclear deal.
“We continue to be hopeful of implementing the civil nuclear agreement to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of providing electricity to all Indians by 2020,” he said at an event in New Delhi.
On the bilateral trade issue, he said the target of $500 billion was doable.
“I believe we can get there,” he said at a Brookings Institute talk.
He said the US was also working with India on the Modi government’s ‘Smart Cities’ project, on providing clean water and sanitation.
US President Barack Obama arrives in India Jan 25 on a three-day visit. He is the chief guest at the Jan 26 Republic Day parade and will hold talks with Prime Minister Modi Jan 25.