Skip to main content

India-US nuclear deal: "Complex" legal issues suggest it wasn't a breakthrough, says Washington Post

By Our Representative
Premier US daily "Washington Post" has quoted American officials, analysts and experts to say that the claimed nuclear deal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, arrived at during President Barack Obama's recent India visit, cannot be characterised as a breakthrough, as "legal issues remain so complex that private US companies may continue to shy away from new deals in India, despite the developing country’s fast-growing and dire power needs." 
Jointly penned by Annie Gowen, the paper's India bureau chief, and Steven Mufson, in Washington, it says, latest information from the Government of India suggests the deal has not paved the way "for US firms to sell nuclear reactors to India".
While the deal's details remain sketchy, the paper says, on Wednesday, Indian officials cited three key elements of the agreement: "The establishment of an insurance pool to cover nuclear operators and suppliers for up to $250 million in damages; a nonbinding legal memorandum asserting that Indian liability law is consistent with international norms; and a new system of reporting on the status of nuclear fuel and other materials supplied by the United States."
Taking exception to the Indian liability law, the paper quotes anonymous White House officials to say that the deal is "not a signed piece of paper", but just a "process that led us to a better understanding of how we might move forward”. It underlines, "The key issue will be whether the conflict between international and Indian law can be waved away by a memorandum from India’s attorney general".
It quotes a Washington lawyer familiar with the issue to say the any new contract to supply reactors would have to clearly mention that "the 2010 liability law doesn’t mean what it says."
The paper insists, the "real test" of the deal will be when the US and Japanese companies "sign commercial contracts with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. Already, Jonathan Allen, a spokesman for General Electrical (GE) Hitachi Nuclear Energy, which has a tieup for Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh), has said it  looks forward “to reviewing the governmental agreement.” 
The paper suggests that review will be taken in the backdrop of how how, in 2010, the Indian Parliament passed a "strict liability law that angered many in Washington and effectively stalled efforts by companies such as Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to sell materials or partner to build nuclear power plants in India."
Pointing to another "obstacle" that remains intact, the paper says, it is "the requirement in the Hyde Act of 2006 that the Indian government and an independent auditor annually provide information about the form, amounts and location of any uranium supplied to India to make sure it is not diverted for military use." 
While Obama officials said that "the two sides came up with a tracking system specific to India that will rely heavily on a series of information exchanges", the paper believes, US' nonproliferation experts remain concerned.
"India’s first nuclear reactor dates to 1956; the country has 21 reactors at seven power plant sites", the paper says, emphasizing, "The United States and Canada withdrew support for the nuclear program after the country exploded a nuclear device in 1974, and the United States and Japan imposed sanctions after the 1998 tests. Members of Congress will want to be sure that India cannot skirt the Bush-era legislation and did not simply wear down American negotiators to achieve the present agreement."
Already, the paper says, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) has said in a statement that “to get this contentious issue off the table, the Administration simply signed off on the same measures taken by India that the Administration had previously said were unacceptable”. It comments, "Even if the thorny details of the liability question are worked out — a big if, analysts say — American companies still face the political realities of India."
It adds, "Although the government concedes that nuclear power must remain part of the country’s energy mix, particularly to counter rising greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power plants remain unpopular with local residents, and acquiring land to build plants can take years." 
It quotes MK Bhadrakumar, a former Indian ambassador who is now an analyst, that the “breakthrough” touted by Obama and Modi "may end up being more of a diplomatic success than a commercial breakthrough".

Comments

TRENDING

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Did Modi own, buy digital camera costing Rs 7 lakh in 1987-88, also used email?

Counterview Desk
In an interview to the news channel News Nation, aired on Saturday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he had approved the air strike despite bad weather because he felt the clouds would hide Indian planes from Pakistani radar is known to have become a laughing stock across India.

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.

When a neo-nationalist "invaded" hijab clad ladies, Bengali looking scholar in Delhi metro

By Aditi Kundu*
Travelling in Delhi metro on a daily basis to commute from Mayur Vihar to Dwarka, I see diverse people everyday. One can hear them talk about different aspects of life, from kitchen pilitics to national politics. On the morning of May 13, I witnessed a strange incident; disturbing and amusing at the same time.

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Women lost 88 lakh jobs in 2018: Why Modi "failed" to address their disempowerment?

Counterview Desk
Five human rights leaders Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of the Women March for Change have posed 56 questions (alluding to Modi’s claim of 56 inches chest) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP against the backdrop of his interview with a Bollywood star, which was allegedly masqueraded as a “non-political” conversation.

PepsiCo warned: Withdraw cases against Gujarat farmers or face dire consequences

By Our Representative
About 200 farmers’ leaders and activists, in a letter to Dr KV Prabhu, chairperson, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA), and Dr R C Agrawal, registrar general, PPVFRA, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India, have demanded that PepsiCo immediately withdraw all the legal suits it has slapped on many potato farmers in different districts of Gujarat.

During Emergency, the ruler was extolled but Opposition wasn't punched around: Scribe

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released book, “India: The Wrong Transition”, by a top Delhi-based scribe Anand K Sahay, has quoted “journalistic circles” to say that the Indian mainstream media – with certain “honourable exceptions” – has virtually abandoned the “practice of journalism”, and  this happened following a “sting operation” that showed that “the crème de la crème of Indian journalism were only too willing, for a suitable price, to let poisonous Hindutva propaganda prevail in their news columns.”

Ex-IAS, IPS, IFS officers tell Modi: Pragya Thakur doesn't represent India's rich heritage

Counterview Desk
In an open statement, a group of former civil servants have said that normally they would have dismissed the candidature of Pragya Thakur, who is BJP’s choice for the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, as an act of political expediency. However, they were forced to react to her candidature after none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed has as a “symbol of our civilisational heritage.”

Disproportionately high death sentences against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims: UN told

Counterview Desk
In their joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to meet for the listing of adoption of list of issues at its 126th session, July 1-26, 2019, top Dalit rights organizations have taken strong exception to, among other things, "disproportional application of death sentencing by the judiciary of minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis".