Govt sources say Delhi has mooted an insurance pool to compensate suppliers in case of a nuclear accident

A US team at the Taj Mahal in Agra on Monday before president Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit

PTI
An indication that the India-United States civil nuclear agreement, which has existed only on paper over the past eight years, may be operationalised, as top diplomats and officials associated with nuclear energy from both countries will meet here on Wednesday to thrash out issues, ahead of president Barack Obama’s arrival. The US president is reaching Delhi on January 25 and will straight away start dialogue with prime minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House after ceremonial protocols at Rashtrapati Bhavan.Ironically, the BJP, then in opposition along with the Left parites had forced a stringent liability law in the Parliament. But now as a ruling party has been left to find a way out.The joint contact group on nuclear issues set up at the initiative of prime minister Modi , when he met Obama in White House in September has met twice since then. The nuclear deal also known as 123 agreements signed on August 2007 after three-year-long protracted negotiations hit last-mile hiccups, especially differences on liability. Since then it has not translated into any investments or the technology transfer on the ground, despite India having offered sites for nuclear reactors to GE Hitachi and Westinghouse. Under pressure from opposition (then BJP), the previous Congress-led Manmohan Singh government had enacted nuclear liability law which makes suppliers liable for damages in the event of any nuclear mishap.Sources here say India has offered a proposal to set up a nuclear insurance pool to compensate suppliers in case of a nuclear accident. Officials here said since the liability law cannot be tampered with as it was an Act approved by Parliament, the insurance pool is the best option available.Ahead of Obama’s visit, the two sides will also seek to address the issue of US reservations over another section of the law, section 46, which could potentially open suppliers to unlimited liability other than under the provisions of the contract. “The contact group has discussed a range of issues related to implementation apart from liability like administrative issues, technical issues and licensing to facilitate the establishment of US-designed nuclear power plants in India,” sources here said. The contact group apart from diplomats and officials, includes representatives of nuclear industries from both sides — the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) from the Indian side and Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi from the US side.Government sources here say, prime minister Modi during his bilateral talks will seek American support not only to seeking the permanent membership in the UN Security Council, but a place at several other multilateral bodies like Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). During his last trip, Obama, while addressing Indian Parliament did say, that India deserves a place of prominence world bodies, but attached strings, raising issue of human rights etc. Officials here said, a major take-away from the high-profile visit could be de-hyphenation of India with Pakistan or China. “Looking at the US relations with India from the prism of Pakistan and China has been the nemesis of the relations in all these years. We expect President Obama to walk that extra mile and see relations with India a stand-alone relations,” they said. India also expects at least a commitment to strike a ‘totalisation agreement’, which would ensure that Indian companies do not have to contribute to US social security for the employees that they send to that country, is one such. These payouts are to the tone of $3 billion, which Indian contribute as ‘involuntary aid’ to the US government. January 25US President Obama, First Lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha to land in New Delhi To attend ceremonial guard of honour at Rashtrapati BhavanVisit to RajghatTalks with PM Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House Michelle and daughters to attend separate events, possibly visits to schools/NGOs working among children January 26Attend Republic Day paradeModi and Obama to attend India-US CEO roundtableBanquet hosted by president Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan January 27Address by Obama on ‘India and America: The Future We Can Build Together’ at the Siri Fort Auditorium. Visit Agra to see the Taj MahalTownhall event (time and place not disclosed yet)Departure (Final itinerary is yet to be made public)

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US, India may give Nuclear-deal the final push