Home / Politics / Policy /  India, US to meet on civil nuclear liability issue

New Delhi: Indian and US civil nuclear energy experts will meet in Mumbai on Wednesday to find ways to resolve the contentious suppliers’ liability issue, government officials of the two countries said.

Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said there was no question that more had to be done to sort out the issue, but any steps would have to be within the framework of Indian law. He was speaking on Tuesday at a joint briefing with US energy secretary Ernest Moniz after reviewing progress in their ongoing energy dialogue.

The two countries have not been able move on civil nuclear cooperation as the US has concerns about India’s 2010 law on civil liability for nuclear damage. The law says operators of nuclear plants can hold foreign suppliers liable in the event of an incident due to faulty equipment or material supplied, something nuclear suppliers such as the US, Canada and France have concerns about.

“We all feel we need to pick up pace in the resolution of the liability convention to see India is aligned with international conventions on liability and supplementary compensation. Resolving this is important for all companies, including Indian companies," said Moniz.

“We have been told by our colleagues in India that dialogue will find a way to be consistent with the international convention that we believe will come into force this year," he said. The convention requires ratification by India and one or two other countries with large civilian nuclear programmes for it to come into force. How India will rationalize the liability law will emerge at the discussion in Mumbai, Moniz said. “Not only the US, other partners have similar concerns. I don’t like the word dilute, but it may be possible to resolve this within the confines of the current law," Ahluwalia said.

The US-India energy dialogue, launched in May 2005 and last held in September 2012, is part of a broader strategic dialogue between the two countries. This meeting was scheduled for January but was postponed as diplomatic tensions mounted following the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York in December 2013. Indicted by a US court for allegedly underpaying her babysitter in violation of visa conditions, she has returned to India.

The joint briefing came at the end of meetings from 5-10 March of working groups on coal, oil and gas; new technologies and renewable energy, power and energy efficiency, and sustainable growth.

The two sides also chalked out a plan for research collaboration on clean and energy efficient technology. “We understand elections are coming, but we need to emphasize we have a strong dialogue that will continue and hopefully even expand collaboration," Moniz said.

At an event organised by industry lobby Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) earlier on Tuesday, Montek and Moniz said private firms in the renewable and energy efficient technology space should come up with revenue models that the Indian government could support.

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