Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Modi "agrees" to US demand to change Indian nuclear laws to allow American companies to supply uranium

By Our Representative
President Barrack Obama is learnt to have extracted a major concession from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who reportedly agreed to bring about a major change in india’s nuclear policy, which America believes is the key to reluctance of American companies to supply uranium to Indian nuclear power plants. If the policy changes, Gujarat’s proposed nuclear plant may be among the first “gainers”. An agreement to set up 6,000 MW nuclear power plant between US’ Westinghouse Corporation and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) at near Mithi Virdi along the Saurashtra coast remains unimplemented because of inability to sort out “administrative” issues.
The Washington Times (September 30) reports that President Obama and his Indian counterpart may have pledged to cooperate on nuclear energy, but American specialists believe “Indian liability laws have made progress virtually impossible and have rendered moot a landmark 2008 agreement between the two countries.” It adds, “During his first trip to the US since assuming power Modi … expressed openness to changing his nation’s liability laws, a prerequisite to US-Indian cooperation on nuclear power moving forward.” There is no confirmation yet about this from India.
The daily says that a 2010 law passed in Indian Parliament may have “opened the door for US nuclear suppliers to do business in India, there has been virtually no progress over the past six years”, and the main reason behind this is that India’s liability laws make “suppliers, rather than operators, accountable for damages resulting from accidents at nuclear facilities.” It adds, “The liability law had the impact of shutting US companies out of the Indian market. It’s been a major stumbling block.”
The daily quotes Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at the conservative Heritage Foundation, to say that “there’s a lot of frustration in the US”. Another expert, Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, says, “We totally embarrassed ourselves with that deal, and we have to kind of act like it didn’t happen the way it seemed to have happened. We convinced ourselves that this was worth sort of bending the rules with regard to nuclear trade and nonproliferation”.
The daily says, “The two nations struck a historic nuclear energy deal in 2008, one that was heralded at the time as a breakthrough in US-Indian relations, but also criticized as a de facto endorsement of India’s nuclear weapons capability. It allowed American companies for the first time to build reactors in India, a potential boon for firms looking to expand to emerging markets. It also lifted a ban on uranium imports for India. In return, India agreed to allow international inspections of its nuclear facilities and vowed not to conduct future nuclear weapons tests.”
“Not only did the perceived benefits to American businesses not come to pass, but the agreement may have indirectly spurred Iranian and North Korean nuclear ambitions by signaling nations could refuse to sign international nuclear nonproliferation treaties and still receive the blessing of the US”, the daily says, quoting specialists, adding, “Even though the agreement was signed before either man came into office, Obama and Modi appear willing to continue trying to make the deal work.”

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