Policymakers have done all they can to facilitate the implementation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal and it may now be left to the U.S. nuclear corporations to take a decision on whether to invest in nuclear reactors in India, was the message that Indian ambassador to the U.S. Arun Singh seemed to convey at an event in New York this week.
Addressing a gathering organised by the Asia Society Policy Institute, including its president, former two-time Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Mr. Singh underscored the bilateral progress made during two meetings between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama, respectively in the U.S. and India. He said, “In two summits with the U.S. in four months, the government addressed lingering differences with the U.S. on nuclear liability, injected new energy into defence and economic cooperation, and explored pragmatic ways forward on IPR issues and climate change.”
Specifically on the civil nuclear deal, Mr. Singh added, “all the policy-level pending issues… have been resolved,” and this included “a common understanding about the compatibility of India’s nuclear liability legislation with the international regime and conclusion of the administrative arrangements.”
While the two nations’ leaders in February announced a “breakthrough understanding” to resolve a long-standing impasse stemming from India’s nuclear liability law, forward movement has however ground to a standstill since then and last month a State Department spokesperson told The Hindu that there was “nothing new to announce on the civil nuclear deal at this time.” In February, a top State Department official, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal, said, “Now it will be up to the companies to assess for themselves the business case scenarios and make their own decisions based on the commercial aspects – how to move forward.”Primary obstacle
However one industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that there was “nothing happening” since February 8, 2015, when Ministry of External Affairs provided an FAQ-style “clarification” regarding Section 17 (b) and Section 46 of India’s liability law, which are seen as the primary obstacle to continued momentum in this space.