Obama, Modi to iron out nuclear deal differences

Last Updated 23 January 2015, 20:05 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Barack Obama will on Sunday try to thrash out differences over a proposed “Administrative Arrangement” for implementation of the 2008 India-US nuclear deal. 

Officials of the two countries have made “significant progress” towards ending the logjam over liability.

As the US demand for right to monitor use of any material in a nuclear reactor built by its companies in India came up as a new roadblock in negotiation over an “Administrative Arrangement” for implementation of the 2008 deal, the issue is now being left to Modi and Obama to discuss when they would meet in New Delhi on Sunday. New Delhi has turned down the fresh demand of Washington stating that India would only allow monitoring by International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Indian officials made it clear to their American counterparts in a meeting in London that the US demand itself was tantamount to doubting the impeccable non-proliferation record of India. 

They cited the examples of India’s long-standing nuclear cooperation with Russia, arguing that Moscow had never asked New Delhi for rights to track material and equipment used in Russian VVER 1,000 MWe reactors in Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. 
Sources said the issue would now be discussed by Modi and Obama when they would meet shortly after the US president’s arrival in New Delhi on Sunday.Officials in New Delhi clarified that the fresh demand from Washington had nothing to do with the concerns of US government and nuke companies over the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010 of India. 
The third meeting of the India-America contact group on Civil Nuclear Cooperation in London this week saw New Delhi’s fresh proposal to create an “insurance pool” to cover the liability of the US suppliers of reactors and other nuke equipment being by and large accepted by Washington, with certain mutually agreed upon modifications.

Though the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement was inked in 2008, the last six years saw little progress in its implementation, as several companies of the US have concerns over the CLND Act of India.

The proposal of creating an “insurance pool” – led by General Insurance Corporation of India – is understood to have largely addressed the concerns of US companies over the CLND Act’s Section 17 (b), which allowed operators of a nuclear plant to claim damages from suppliers in case a mishap occurs due to a “patent or latent defect” in the equipment supplied or sub-standard services rendered by them.

The US companies, however, still have concerns over Section 46 of the Act which could make the liability of the suppliers potentially unlimited.

Sources said although US had been insisting on an amendment to Section 46 of the Act, Modi might offer Obama an alternative – a note of clarification from the Attorney General of India reducing scope for unlimited liability of the suppliers.

(Published 23 January 2015, 20:04 IST)

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