Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithiviraj Chavan underlined the need for consultations on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, because the nuclear sector was “very sensitive.”
He said the first challenge before the government was to get the proposed legislation passed through a “collaborative approach.” “Let us begin somewhere and not be obstructionist,” he said. He denied that the government was seeking investments from any of the overseas firms being contracted to set up nuclear plants. “It is purely a buyer-supplier relationship. We are not seeking investments.”
National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon met senior BJP leaders on Wednesday in an attempt to convince them of the benefits of the Bill. He met Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and Deputy Leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha S.S. Ahluwalia, besides Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha, on the Parliament House premises, BJP sources said.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Assocham, Mr. Chavan said the government had no proposal at present to allow foreign direct investment. But domestic private sector companies could tie up with the state-owned companies — the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and the National Thermal Power Corporation of India — with a minority stake.
The government had ambitious plans to import nuclear equipment to expand its indigenous nuclear power generation programme from France, Russia and the U.S. The imports would be subject to the condition that suppliers take the entire risk for meeting emergency requirements. This could be possible only if the Nuclear Civil Liability Bill had a smooth passage in Parliament, Mr. Chavan said.
The government was planning to amend the Atomic Energy Act only to make the Nuclear Regulatory Board truly autonomous so that it could issue directives to involve the private sector in nuclear energy generation.
Ambassador of Sweden Lars-Olof Lindgren said that after India passed the Nuclear Civil Liability Bill, it would be able to find suppliers for nuclear equipment and material from his country, which now generates 50 per cent of the power from the nuclear energy.
“Talks must go on”
At a function to launch a book, India's National Security-Annual review 2009, Mr. Menon underlined the importance of holding talks with Pakistan. “I don't know the end. I don't know where it will go. But for all the reasons such as terrorism, we will have to talk to them,” he said.
On Afghanistan, he said there was no questions of “scaling up or scaling down” India's commitments.