Skip to main content

US likely to seek abrogation of India's nuclear liability law for the sake of "market reforms", suggests WSJ

By Our Representative
Clear indications have emerged that, following the controversial nuclear deal between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the US would now insist that India should bend and water down the 2010 nuclear liability law, Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA). In an unsigned editorial, America's powerful business daily, "Wall Street Journal" (WSJ) has said that the deal was a "test" whether India would allow market forces to play a role in supplying nuclear technology, and if the "red tape" which still exists in the form of this liability is done away with.
Titled "A US-India Nuclear Test", the editorial praises Modi for promising "to cut the notorious Indian red tape that scares away foreign investors, particularly when it comes to liability laws", but insists, quoting top nuclear suppliers and their supporters within the US, that India should actually act.
Pointing out that this is of "crucial importance" to ensure that the two countries keep up with their promise to be “best partners”, the daily says that the 2008 "reconciliation" under which India agreed to open its civilian reactors to international inspections through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was put to nought in 2010 with Indian Parliament "enacted liability laws that broke with international conventions and left US power-plant suppliers vulnerable to excessive criminal and civil penalties in the event of an accident."
The daily argues, "Indian concerns stemmed from the 1984 Bhopal catastrophe that killed thousands around an American-owned chemical factory. But placing liability on foreign suppliers rather than local plant operators would effectively bar firms such as General Electric and Westinghouse from the Indian market."
The editorial quotes Westinghouse CEO Daniel Roderick as telling the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" that with the 2010 law, “every person in India can sue you. That’s the bigger issue —- to withstand the costs of a billion people trying to sue you.” Westinghouse has been contracted to supply nuclear reactors for the proposed nuclear plant at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat. The daily further quotes former US diplomat Ashley Tellis as saying, “If litigants were able to file suit against suppliers, essentially it could destroy the whole industry.”
The 2010 nuclear liability law, the daily points out, became the main reason for the "foreign firms suspended their multi-billion-dollar construction plans in 2010." It insists, it contributed to the souring relations between India and the US: "Coupled with Indian backsliding on foreign investment in retail, insurance and other industries, along with diplomatic spats over issues such as Afghanistan, the nuclear-liability controversy contributed to years of drift in US-Indian relations."
WSJ believes, the latest nuclear deal with Modi "seeks to clear the impasse by having New Delhi work with state-backed insurers to create an insurance pool for accident victims while indemnifying suppliers against liability." At the same time, it adds, "Whether it will work is unclear." 
While Westinghouse’s Roderick has "echoed Obama in calling the pact a breakthrough", the fact is "his firm and others stressed that they haven’t seen the details", as the "difficulty is that New Delhi will implement the agreement through a form of executive action meant to avoid having to amend the 2010 liability law."
The daily insists, agreeing with what the suppliers like Westinghouse want, "The underlying law allows the government to set up an insurance pool but appears less clear on whether suppliers can be indemnified from claims by accident victims. Suppliers have previously sought amendments to the law, not simply executive action." 
It warns, "So it may be a while before any foreign firm breaks ground on a new Indian power plant."
It says, while it may be "worth celebrating the bonhomie displayed by Messrs Modi and Obama, along with the growing cooperation between US and Indian defense planners", yet "protectionist policies and political dysfunction in New Delhi continue to limit India’s growth as an economic and diplomatic power." 
Praising Modi for his ability to overcome "political resistance", the daily suggests he would hopefully overcome this problem also and go ahead with "pro-market reforms" that would allow the likes of Westinghouse to invest in nuclear generation in India.

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.