New Delhi: India and the US negotiators have been making "progress" in trying to resolve the differences in operationalising the landmark civil nuclear deal ahead of President Barack Obama's arrival here on January 25 on a three -day visit, which is packed with high-voltage engagements.
Describing the three-day visit as "one of our most important diplomatic engagements in recent times", Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin said cooperation in key areas of defence, security, counter- terrorism and the situation in India's extended neighbourhood would be among the issues to be discussed between Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Asked about the differences between the two sides on the nuclear deal, he said, "Our negotiators are working together in a collaborative manner in London. This is the third time the Contact Group, which was set up by the Prime Minister and the US President, is meeting in last nearly 45 days. One can see the element of effort going in the discussion on the nuclear issue, which is an extremely important issue..."
He said under the nuclear "rubric", the Group was discussing administrative arrangements, how to actualise India's quest for membership of Nuclear Supplier's Group and also issues related to clarification and understanding of our nuclear liability regime.
"What is being discussed is how within the four walls of our legal framework, our legislation, we can provide assurance to our partners in the US and any concerns that they may have either through their vendors or lawyers that is the discussion that is taking place right now in London," the Spokesperson said. Significantly, the talks, which started yesterday, have been extended by a day today.
Noting that "progress has been made" during the previous negotiations, the Spokesperson said, India was looking forward to "effectively" work with the US in the "extremely important" nuclear field.
The Indian liability law holds the suppliers directly liable in case of a nuclear accident while countries like France and the US have asked India to follow global norms under which the primary liability is with the operator.
Since all the nuclear power plants in the country are run by the government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, following international norms will mean the government would have to pay for the damages in case of an accident.
Another contentious clause in the liability law was unlimited liability for which international companies will find it difficult to get insurers.
The two sides are working hard to have "excellent" outcomes during the visit of Obama, who will have a tight schedule including talks with Modi, attending Republic Day parade as the Chief Guest, meeting with business leaders, joint radio talk with Modi and a quick visit to Agra to see the iconic Taj Mahal.
Asked about the criticism that Obama's visit was seen as "just to see parade and visit the Taj", the Spokesperson said, "From our perspective, the US is a key partner for capital, technology, knowledge and skills in our development effort as also potentially important source of clean energy technology and hydrocarbons. It is an important partner in areas like defence technology and counter-terrorism."
"US is also an important factor in our space security and cyber security and a key interlocutor in adjustments to the global security and economic architecture including reforms of the UN Security Council," he said and also described it as a partner in the quest for a rule based, open international trading and economic order.
It is an important partner in India's efforts to seek peace and stability in our extended neighbourhood and globally, the Spokesperson added.
Giving details of Obama's schedule, he said apart from talks with Modi, and attending Republic Day function, the US President, along with Modi, will address business leaders and also hold joint radio talk with the Prime Minister.
Obama, who will accompanied by his wife Michelle, will also visit Taj Mahal in Agra before their return from here.
The Spokesperson also noted that there have been nine India-US bilateral dialogues since September and, in addition, there have been eight meetings relating to defence and security in such areas as cyber, border management, counter- improvised explosive devices, defence technology, trade initiatives and global entry programme.
"Also on the economic and commercial fronts, there have been three meetings on matters such as smart cities, financial regulations, etc. In the science and technology sphere, there have been three meetings on diverse subjects, including vaccination programme, scientific research collaboration on monsoon. There have been 10 MOUs signed in areas such as space, renewable energy, skill development and urban development to name a few," he said.
"Looking ahead, the potential for growth in our relationship is strong," Akbaruddin asserted.
Asserting that Obama's visit was "the culmination of a qualitative reinvigoration of our ties following the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi in September 2014", Akbaruddin said, "Since then, both the sides have acted with alacrity, collaborated in common pursuits and have traversed along a transformative path."
He said India sees the visit as "strengthening our ties across the full breadth between our governments, our peoples and our institutions".