Nuclear pact implementation may get fillip

Nuclear pact implementation may get fillip

PM's US visit: The first major milestone towards the much-delayed agreement

Nuclear pact implementation may get fillip

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposed visit to Washington in September may see India and the US crossing the first major milestone towards the much-delayed commercial implementation of the landmark bilateral civil nuclear agreement.

New Delhi and Washington lined up a series of engagements to arrest the drift in bilateral ties ahead of Singh’s visit to the US on an invitation from US President Barrack Obama. US Secretary of State John Kerry said American Vice-President Joe Biden would also visit India late July.

Biden’s visit to New Delhi would be preceded by that of Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s visit to Washington for the India-US CEOs’ Forum, which the US Department of State would host on July 12.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid too is likely to travel to Washington to lay the ground for the prime minister’s visit.

Kerry said American firm Westinghouse Electric Company LLC and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited were expected to conclude negotiations by September for an “Early Works Agreement” to build a 1,000 MWe atomic power plant at Mithivirdi in Gujarat.

He was addressing a news conference with Khurshid, after they co-chaired the fourth India-US Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi on Monday.

Kerry conveyed to Khurshid concerns of the US companies over the alleged “discriminatory trade practices” of India, particularly on “intellectual property protection, local content restrictions, limits on foreign direct investment and taxation problems.” Khurshid conveyed to Kerry concerns of the Indian Information Technology companies doing business in America over the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, which was introduced in the US Senate.

The two sides agreed to discuss issues of mutual concern at the India-US CEOs’ Forum in Washington next month, as well as in the proposed meeting of the Trade Policy Forum, which is likely to be led by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and the new US Trade Representative Michael Froman later this year.

The US prodded India to revive negotiations for the Bilateral Investment Treaty. New Delhi, however, pointed out that it could restart talks only after completing the ongoing review of its own template for such a treaty.

Kerry and Khurshid on Monday did not announce the prime minister’s proposed visit to Washington. Sources, however, told Deccan Herald that while the diplomats of India and the US were in the advanced stage of the finalising the dates for the visit in September, efforts were being made to conclude negotiations between the NPCIL and Westinghouse on the EWA over the next two months.

Singh’s visit to Washington is likely to be his last before he completes his second term in office in May 2014.

Showpiece achievements

Both India and the US are keen to have the NPCIL-Westinghouse EWA as one of the showpiece achievements of the visit, which is aimed at giving a boost to the bilateral ties that witnessed a drift in the years following the 2008 civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

“We look forward to realising the full implementation (of the nuke deal) as soon as possible, including making progress on the efforts of Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi to construct nuclear power plants in India,” said Kerry.

Implementation of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement was delayed primarily due to the US companies’ concerns over certain provisions in India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act.

Khurshid is understood to have conveyed to Kerry on Monday that New Delhi would be ready to provide further clarifications “within the four corners of the nuclear liability law” in order to help expedite the Westinghouse-NPCIL negotiation on the EWA.