Washington: The US hopes that Indian Parliament would soon ratify the nuclear liability agreement, with a top American diplomat observing that such a move would provide assurances of how India sees and accrues liability in the case of an accident.
"One of the big breakthroughs during the (US) President's visit on Republic Day was the progress made on implementing the 123 agreement for civil nuclear cooperation," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
The breakthroughs, she said, were in two key areas, one was on creating the understandings and assurances on tracking fissile material that allow US to know fully and to be in compliance with its requirements with respect to tracking of fissile material.
"The second was on this issue of nuclear liability, and clarifications from the government of India, from the Prime Minister himself as well as the foreign minister about the liability for operators as opposed to for suppliers, which is largely in keeping with the conventional supplementary compensation," she said.
"That articulation by the highest levels of the Indian government about its interpretation of Indian law with respect to how liability accrues is in keeping with the CSC (Convention on Supplementary Compensation) and paves the way now for the Indian parliament to ratify to CSC, which we hope that they will do in short order," Biswal said.
"That is something that is largely for the Indian system to take up. We are hopeful that that progress on ratification will be made in the near future. It would provide the assurances of how India sees and accrues liability, you know, in the event of any kind of a happenstance," she said.
"So, it does therefore then guide then how companies would see their own liabilities and how the courts would see and determine liability," Biswal said responding to questions from Congressman Brad Sherman.
"There's a natural interest in India in the nuclear power, yet they've failed to attract US suppliers to set up nuclear facilities. What does the US need to do to get India to sign on to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation and to what extent had the Indians promised to do that or something similar as part of the 123 agreement?" he asked.
India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Law allows the operator of a nuclear plant to seek damages from the supplier in case of a nuclear incident due to supply of equipment with latent and patent defects or sub-standard services. The US says the Indian law is not consistent with the CSC.