US hopeful of addressing nuke liability issues with India

With the new government in power in India, the US believes that there may be an opening to address the contentious nuclear liability issues with India, a top US official said.

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 18, 2014, 02:02 AM IST

Washington: With the new government in power in India, the US believes that there may be an opening to address the contentious nuclear liability issues with India, a top US official said.

"While we have not yet had detailed discussion with the Modi government on the way forward on civil nuclear cooperation, we believe that there may be an opening to address nuclear liability issues either through a legal framework or through other channels that can help create more surety on what the application of liability might be so that it is not unlimited liability as the companies are rightly concerned," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said.

Biswal was answering a question put forward by Senator James Risch who expressed frustration over the nuclear liability issue between the two countries which signed the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal in 2005.

"We are disappointed that it has been six years now and we have not really seen the participation of the US nuclear industry, particularly the companies being able to participate there. And it of course surrounds this issue of liability," Risch said.

"Understanding it`s very early on in the Modi administration, but do you see some things there that give you some hope that there is going to be some movement in that regard?," he asked.

Biswal stated that the issue is going to require greater discussion between the US and India as well as between the companies and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to decide the way forward.

"We share your frustration in terms of the lack of progress in the issue over the last six years. While we did get some initial success and were able to complete the small contract with respect to the previous government, we see some expanded areas of opportunity with the new government," Biswal told Senators during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

"We have heard from Westinghouse that they think that there is a greater scope for trying to make progress on this and we`re going to pursue that in the coming months," she added.
The Assistant Secretary said that there are a host of
other issues that need to be looked into.

"Beyond liability, there are a host of other issues that often need to be addressed which we haven`t really been able to engage in until the liability issues are addressed. We need to see whether there are options either in terms of legislative or regulative remedies that can help create a framework for discussions to proceed with respect to liability," Biswal said.

Senator James Risch expressed hope in the deal and urged that both the parties should resolve the impending issues quickly.

"It has been six years since the Indo-US nuclear deal was completed and we are yet to see US nuclear companies participate in India. I hope we can see improvement on the liability issues and I urge the parties to move quickly to resolve those issues. This will result in the deepening of the relationship and will greatly benefit both parties," Risch said.