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

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

Polygamy in India "down" in 45 yrs: Muslims' from 5.7 to 2.55%, Hindus' 5.8 to 1.77%, "common" in SCs, STs

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) justifying polygamy, saying it “meets social and moral needs and the provision for it stems from concern and sympathy for women”, facts suggest the the practice is down from 5.7 per cent of Muslim families in 1961 to 2.55 per cent in 2006.

TISS Hyderabad: Burden of funds cut falls on students from 'marginalized' sections

Counterview Desk
Top activists associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), a civil society network, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Dr Binayak Sen, and Prafulla Samantara, has protested against the decision of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) administration for “sine die” closure of TISS, Hyderabad Campus, even as “denying” hostel access to Dalit and Adivasi students.