PM-Obama talks to focus on nuke liability bill, AfPak

PM-Obama talks to focus on nuke liability bill, AfPak

Manmohan Singh arrives in Washington

PM-Obama talks to focus on nuke liability bill, AfPak

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Saturday. AP

Singh will hold talks with Obama at Blair House tonight, their second meeting in four months. They had last met here on November 24 during Singh's State Visit.

The Prime Minister is expected to inform Obama that the nuclear liability bill is going through democratic processes in India and he hopes it to be passed by Parliament at the earliest, sources said.

The Civil Nuclear Liability Bill, whose passage is crucial for implementation of the historic Indo-US nuclear deal, has got caught in a political quagmire with opposition parties strongly objecting to certain aspects of the proposed legislation.

The opposition parties are particularly opposed to the provision of Rs 500 crore 'cap' on damages to be paid by the operator in case of a nuclear accident.

The government has indicated that it is willing to consider changes, including changing the nomenclature of 'cap' to 'norm' but wants the bill to be referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament.

Singh is also expected to convey to the US President India's apprehensions over the end-use of military aid given by America to Pakistan, sources said. India has been maintaining that the military supplies and monetary aid given by the US are often used by Pakistan against Indian interests.

The two leaders will also discuss the situation in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the new Afghan-Pakistan strategy unveiled by Obama a few months back. Singh is expected to underline that India would continue to play its role there as it has vital stakes involved.

India has made it clear that it would continue to play a role in the war-torn Afghanistan "with or without America" as it has crucial stakes in the stability of the country on its periphery.

Sources said India's policy on Afghanistan will be determined by its own interests and not by what others do.

They noted that India and the US had common goals in Afghanistan that the country should be stable, peaceful and there should be no outside interference. But the question was about reaching there, they said while emphasising the need for coordination.

The comments came in the backdrop of a talk that the US was planning to leave Afghanistan for which it was looking for a strategy.

At one time, the US had talked about handing over the security of Afghanistan to regional countries like Pakistan, Iran and others.

This, however, could not happen because of the US' own problems with Iran and internal situation in Kyrgyzstan.

Indian government believes that Pakistan would not be entrusted with any prominent role in the affairs of Afghanistan even though "some parts" of Pakistan would be used by the US in Afghanistan.

About options that India has in case the US-led forces quit Afghanistan, the sources said India will devise its strategy according to the evolving situation and work with those who matter.

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao are expected to articulate India's concerns on nuclear issues, especially atomic materials falling into the hands of terrorists in Pakistan, at the official-level meetings at the Summit that begins on Monday.

Sources said there is a risk of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists, which is a matter of serious concern for India.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Pakistan where some important developments have taken place over the last few days, with Constitution being amended to strip the President of his sweeping powers. However, sources said Indian establishment is not impressed by these developments as it feels that the military continues to wield enormous influence and power in Pakistan, preventing it to be a democracy in the real sense.

At the end of the two-day Summit, an outcome document will be released wherein all countries will be giving political commitment about the response to ensure that nuclear material and arsenal are safe.