Gandhinagar: The US and India will try to make progress on civil nuclear cooperation during President Barack Obama's visit this month end, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday as Washington views the liability clause as one of the "knottiest and thorniest" issues in bilateral ties.
He also said that they expected India to sign a landmark climate change agreement in Paris at the end of this year and this would be part of the discussions Obama will have with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Obama will be in India as chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations this year. He will also have discussions with Modi on bilateral and other issues.
"We will try to make progress on issues like defence agreements, civil nuclear agreement as well as economic progress," Kerry told reporters here giving an outline of the proposed discussions with Modi.
"We are also working together to strengthen maritime security. We are strengthening our partnership to combat terrorism, piracy and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are committed to regional dialogue on key political and security issues," he said.
After the landmark nuclear deal between the two countries in 2008, cooperation in the sector has been stalled over the tough provisions in the Civil Nuclear Liability Act that have come as a dampener for foreign suppliers who have been made accountable for damages in case of accidents.
The two issues – nuclear liability and patent – "are probably some of the knottiest, thorniest issues that we've had," a senior State Department official told reporters travelling with Kerry, who was on a two-day visit here.
Given that Prime Minister Modi has been in office for only six months, it is not surprising that the two countries have not completely resolved these things, the official said.
"There has been a great deal of rolling up your sleeves discussion going on the civil liability issue, on the nuclear side on civil/nuclear, and I think there's a commitment on both sides to try to find a way through that.
"I don't know whether that will be resolved in time for the President's visit, but I would say I think there is progress being made there," the official said.
Talking about the patents issue, the US official said it has to be put in the context of the larger intellectual property issues.
"There has been a great deal of progress and discussion on the copyright side and a commitment by India to introduce new legislation on copyright, particularly with respect to the film industry and piracy there," the official said.
Noting that the patents issue had not been resolved yet, the official said there is a robust discussion taking place and will continue to take place.
"That is an issue that isn't only one that confronts the US and India but it confronts us in a number of other countries as well," the official said, adding that it is a "bigger question."
The official said the two countries are working on a range of issues.
"I think we are working on several things on the energy side, which are clearly economic. We are working on the civil/nuclear liability issue. I can't say for certain we will be doing these things; that's why you have these meetings," the official said.
The official added that a great deal of things were underway and the goal is to "have very concrete and tangible things that we can show forward movement on when President Obama and Prime Minister Modi meet, including on climate change."