VIBRANT GUJARAT SUMMIT National

Obama’s visit may see breakthrough in nuclear deal: Kerry

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, arrives for a press conference at Vibrant Gujarat Summit in Gandhinagar on Monday. Photo: Vijay Soneji  

Acknowledging for the first time that the U.S. hopes for some breakthrough in the talks on the civil nuclear deal with India, Secretary of State John Kerry said the area was one of “four very specific areas we are going to try to make some progress.”

The other three areas that Mr. Kerry said that will also be the “focus” of conversations between the US President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they meet this month are renewable energy and climate change cooperation agreement; the defence partnership agreement; and the economic partnership.

Speaking to journalists at the end of his visit to Gandhinagar, where he attended the Vibrant Gujarat summit, Mr. Kerry said he had discussed “bilateral issues, and the visit of President Obama” when he met with Mr. Modi on Sunday evening.

“The Prime Minister and I discussed challenges in our relationship, which if solved do have an ability to take our relationship forward,” he said.

The Hindu had reported earlier this month on the nuclear contact group talks between India and the US, where officials are discussing two possible solutions to the nuclear liability law challenge, that has held up nuclear plants due to be set up by US companies Hitachi and Westinghouse in Gujarat. The proposals involve a $242 million dollar General Insurance fund specifically for the fallout of any nuclear accident, and the other involved clarifying section 46 of the Liability law, which at present does not differentiate between civil and criminal liability of the suppliers.

However, the government will have its task cut out if it intends to make any changes to the law itself, as it would likely be opposed in parliament.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who had helped with drafting the contentious clauses in the Bill in his previous role as Leader of the Opposition (Rajya Sabha), admitted to difficulties in implementing the law, saying “both the previous (UPA) government and opposition share the blame for that equally.”

Senior officials in both New Delhi and Washington have cautioned against any “optimism” regarding a breakthrough on nuclear issues, however Mr. Kerry’s remarks indicate that there has been some movement in this regard.

Climate change and renewable energy pact

On climate change issues, Mr. Kerry said the US “is committed to working with India to reach a landmark climate change agreement in Paris (at the Climate change conference) at the end of this year.” He also spoke about an agreement on renewable energy that would “help reach 24/7 power to India’s poorest people.”

The two countries are also likely to sign the renewed 10-year defence strategic framework, as well as kickstart the talks on an economic cooperation with the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). “We are all invested in the India relationship,” said Mr. Kerry, praising Mr. Modi for easing foreign investment in Gujarat. “PM Modi made his reputation here in Gujarat. If that can be extrapolated to the rest of India and dealing with all countries, we all benefit,” he added.


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 12:15:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/obamas-visit-may-see-breakthrough-in-nuclear-deal-kerry/article6781050.ece

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