India agreed to share nuclear data for breakthrough in talks

India has accepted that it will share data on nuclear material and equipment in order to secure the U.S. agreement to waive its “tracking requirements” on that material.

According to sources, India’s concession on the issue was the reason for the “breakthrough” in agreement on the administrative arrangements for the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal during President Barack Obama’s visit. The data collected would be shared during annual consultations between a U.S.-Indian group to be specially set up to implement the administrative arrangements that will guide the nuclear deal.

Indian officials maintained that the data sharing agreement was the same as had been extended to other countries. At a press conference shortly after the Obama-Modi summit in Delhi, a senior official of the MEA on Disarmament and International Security Affairs Amandeep Singh Gill told reporters: “We have an administrative arrangement with Canada and that has been the template for finalising our administrative arrangement with the U.S.” The text of the Canadian agreement, that was finalised in April 2013, hasn’t yet been made public, but is understood to only allow for IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards while sharing data based on aggregates from the U.N. agency.

However, in an interview to Headlines Today last week, U.S. Ambassador Richard Verma said, “Under our law there are requirements to track materials. For the first time we got a commitment from the Indian government to come up with data, and to come up with consultations regularly that would meet our requirements.” If, as he says, this is a new and unique departure from India’s previous stand of only providing data to inspectors of the U.N. agency IAEA, it could raise several questions for the NDA government.

The source also denied that President Obama had issued any “executive waiver” to bypass the requirement to monitor the use of nuclear material in India. The American requirement, under the Hyde Act of 2006 stipulates that the U.S. President must certify to U.S. Congress that India (for whom the law was specially drafted) is in compliance with U.S. “tracking and flagging” requirements on fissile material and nuclear equipment at reactors supplied by the U.S., even if it is from third parties.

Indian officials of the “nuclear contact group” who had met three times in Delhi, Vienna and London to hammer out an agreement before President Obama’s visit are now working on producing a “memorandum” for their American counterparts, that will put the Indian government’s explanation on the liability law as well as other parts of the negotiation on paper. Once the U.S. clears the memorandum, the administrative arrangements between the two governments will be signed. The government has not yet released details of the administrative arrangements agreed to with the U.S., nor of the “insurance pool” and memorandum on liability that secured the arrangements. According to sources, India has committed in negotiations that U.S. suppliers will not be liable for civil or ‘tort’ damages under Section 46 of the Liability Act, and their limited liability will be covered by the Indian insurance pool of Rs. 1,500 crore ($242 million).

“No right to recourse”

“In effect, we have no right to recourse after these talks. Ultimately the liability is on the Indian side and lies with the Indian taxpayer now,” a former Foreign Secretary told The Hindu. “It seems as if the government is not being honest and clear about what we have agreed to.”

However, with Parliament scheduled to reopen later this month for the budget session, more clarity on the negotiations will also be demanded there.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 10:03:21 PM |

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