It calls for resolution of “outstanding legacy issues”

Lack of progress in remediation of the Union Carbide's pesticide plant site in Bhopal is an “impediment” to improving trade and investment between India and the United States, says the U.S-India CEO Forum.

In a note submitted to the government ahead of its meeting on June 22 in Washington, the forum has also called for “resolution of outstanding legacy issues” of the Bhopal gas leak disaster.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to be a special invitee to the meeting. Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 1999, is among the 12 members from the U.S. side. The forum is chaired by Ratan Tata from the Indian side and David M. Cote of Honeywell from the other side.

It was on the forum's recommendations in 2006 that Union Ministers P. Chidambaram and Kamal Nath endorsed the setting up of a Site Remediation Trust to let Indian corporates fund and take up the activity while freeing Dow Chemicals of any responsibility. This was to send an “appropriate signal” to Dow Chemicals, which was exploring investments in India and to the American business community. Dow Chemicals bought Union Carbide without any legal liability.

Reconstituted in November last by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the forum has been tasked with providing inputs and recommendations to enhance trade and investment.

Now the forum has sent its recommendations even as there is a furore in the country over a Bhopal court judgment that found seven people guilty of negligence and awarded them two years' imprisonment for the December 1984 disaster, which claimed over 20,000 lives.

The recommendations include removal of roadblocks to commercial trade by (India), and adoption of a nuclear liability regime certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency as being consistent with the Convention of Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, a requirement for Indian and foreign companies to form partnerships.

The Convention sets the possible limit of the operator's liability and defines additional amounts to be provided through contributions by state parties on the basis of the installed nuclear capacity and the United Nations rate of assessment.

Reprocessing agreement

The forum says the U.S. government should implement the recently concluded bilateral reprocessing agreement and India, on its part, should provide the required non-proliferation assurance, a pre-condition for U.S. firms' business negotiations outside their country. The U.S. should endorse India's admission to international regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

India members in the reconstituted forum include Mukesh Ambani (Reliance Industries), O.P. Bhatt (State Bank of India), Venu Srinivasan (TVS Motors), S. Gopalakrishnan (Infosys Technologies), Analjit Singh (Max India), Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Biocon), Preetha Reddy (Apollo Hospitals), Sunil Bharati Mittal (Bharti Enterprises), Chanda Kochhar (ICICI Bank), Ashok Ganguly (ICICI One Source) and Deepak Parekh (HDFC).

From the U.S. side, the forum is being represented by Louis Chenevert (United Technologies Corporation), Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase and Co), Paul Hanrahan (The AES Corporation), Paul Jacobs (Qualcomm), Ellen Kullman (DuPont), Terry Liveris (McGraw Hill Companies), Indra Nooyi (Pepsi Co), Vikram Pandit (Citigroup) and Mike Splinter (Applied Materials).

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