With Barack Obama set for Delhi visit, India, US get into huddle on nuke deal

Racing against time, officials from India and the US met in London today to resolve issues that have come in the way of…

Barack Obama, Indian-American CEO, Indian-American CEO Ajay Banga, US India Business Council, Trade Policy and Negotiations

Racing against time, officials from India and the US met in London today to resolve issues that have come in the way of operationalising the landmark civil nuclear deal with President Barack Obama due here in four days’ time.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, also exuded hope that there will be progress on the deal.

“We continue to be hopeful of implementing the civil nuclear agreement to fulfil the PM (Narendra Modi’s) goal of providing electricity to all Indians by 2020,” he said at an event here.

The talks of the Indo-US Contact Group centred on the ticklish liability issue which has stalled the implementation of the agreements inked in 2005 between the then US President George Bush and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The officials are believed to have made progress in the London parleys.

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 (NPCIL), 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 talks in London today followed the second round in Vienna earlier this month and sources here indicated that there was “forward movement” in the last two rounds and the officials would build on that to achieve something “concrete”.

The first meeting of the Contact Group had taken place here in December last.

The Contact Group, comprising representatives of nuclear industries from both sidesu2013 India’s NPCIL and Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi from the US- held detailed discussions in its previous rounds on a range of implementation issues, including administrative, liability, technical and licencing matters, to facilitate the setting up of US-designed nuclear power plants in India.

The two sides are also reportedly working on a proposal for a insurance pool by the domestic Indian companies to offset the financial burden of American entities.

Both countries are working hard to have “excellent” outcomes during the three-day 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, address on ‘India and America: The Future We Can Build Together’ and a quick visit to Agra to see the iconic Taj Mahal.

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