On the eve of the United States-India strategic dialogue, it has become clear that the U.S. is poised to push India towards a nuclear liability legislation “that will be consistent with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation”; and if such a legislation were passed, “it would provide a very important legal protection and open the way for billions of dollars in American reactor exports and thousands of jobs”, according to Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.
Expressing confidence that the Indian Government may well commit itself to CSC-compliant laws for payouts in the event of a nuclear accident, Mr. Blake said, “The Prime Minister addressed this very forthrightly himself [when] he said that… the passage of this legislation is a priority for the Indian Government.”
Emphasising the “win-win” nature of the deal, Mr. Blake argued it would both deliver nuclear technology that would meet the energy needs of India’s fast-growing economy and also help the U.S. “to substantially increase our exports [and] provide much needed new jobs".
In his remarks to the media here, Mr. Blake however conveyed the U.S.' sense of confidence that Dr. Singh would deliver the goods despite delays in the Indian parliament due to concerns over the overall cap on compensation to Rs. 500 crore and the allocation of much of the burden of nuclear liability to the Indian taxpayer.
He said, “I do not think it has taken that long. India is a democracy and, like our own democracy, they have to work a bill through – first through their own cabinet system and then they have to get a consensus within their own parliamentary system on this very, very important bill.”
When the Prime Minister tabled the bill in Parliament earlier this month the Left and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) members said the cap “violates the rights of a citizen guaranteed under the Constitution".
Mr. Blake added the nuclear liability bill had political resonance in India because of the Bhopal disaster. As a result, people were looking at the bill very closely as they ought to, he said.