1. Explained: India-US nuclear deal moves, but some way still to go

Explained: India-US nuclear deal moves, but some way still to go

India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, has a simple purpose: to make sure that victims of a nuclear accident can get quick compensation...

By: | New Delhi | Updated: January 26, 2015 7:40 AM
Indo US nuclear deal, Barack Obama, Narendra Modi

US President Barack Obama stands next to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they leave after giving their opening statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. In a glow of bonhomie, Obama and Modi announced a breakthrough on nuclear trade. (Reuters)

For much of the weekend, TV commentators had been predicting the Narendra Modi-Barack Obama summit would see the resolution of a legacy issue hanging over the India-US relationship. In the event, the two leaders turned out to be guarded about their countries’ nuclear agreement, though Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh spoke of a “done deal”.

“I am pleased that six years after we signed our bilateral agreement, we are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our laws [and] international legal obligations,” Modi said. Obama, in turn, said there had been a “breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation”, and the two countries were “committed to moving towards full implementation”. Their joint statement welcomes “the understandings reached on the issues of civil nuclear liability and administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation”.

Richard Verma, the US Ambassador in New Delhi, was even more guarded, saying “we think we came to an understanding of the liability [issue]”, which he said would operate “through a memorandum of law within the Indian system”.

The next steps aren’t clear, though. The situation now is that the White House expects a “Memorandum of Law”, explaining how Indian law is compatible with what the US seeks on liability. The Ministry of External Affairs doesn’t have a timeline on this, saying it is a “work in progress”.

The deal

In 2005, the US agreed in principle to support civilian nuclear cooperation with India. Ever since its 1974 nuclear test, India had been denied such technology, which would insulate it from huge variations in global energy prices.

From the US side, the deal required a modification of domestic legislation, and a special waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. New Delhi, in turn, agreed to segregate its civilian and weapons-related nuclear programmes, bring additional facilities under international safeguards, and introduce nuclear liability legislation consistent with the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, or CSC. There’s also a spat over whether the US, or International Atomic Energy Agency, should track equipment sold to India, but that, most experts say, is just a bargaining chip. India’s nuclear liability law, international nuclear equipment suppliers argue, doesn’t comply with CSC, which India has signed, but not ratified.

Read full story: Nuclear deal moves, but some way still to go

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  1. S
    Sam Gross
    Jan 29, 2015 at 3:02 pm
    In the U.S. there is an impression that having nuclear deal with India can bring economic stability to their industry but the question here is that the initiator of nuclear nonproliferation regime has agreed on not to track the material. Can the global security afford the threat of covert expansion of nuclear weapons?
    1. S
      Jan 27, 2015 at 11:48 am
      With a seemingly triumph of Indo-US nuclear deal, there are many questions which remained unanswered. What would be the parameter of working between Indian law against the US. How the Americans would likely to address the Indian liability law. There are many unanswered but significant areas which have not been answered regarding operationalization. The deal had been inked year ago but remains in black and white only due to many working areas. India should work to improve working lines than to simply follow the headlines.
      1. E
        Jan 27, 2015 at 1:08 pm
        if the contentious points are still there then at which type of development India is creating a hype and is celebrating. Duffers and poor India. USA despite of giving a green signal still left a point to be pondered about. U.S. decision to relaent on its former demand of ‘tracking’ nuclear technology being transferred to India is an endort of the expansion in their nal and a grave threat for the regional security and stability. In short if ever the deal is implemented then it would be a serious blow for the non proliferation regime and would leave strong implications for strategic stability.

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