India hopes to address US concerns on n-bill before Obama visit

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Asserting that India’s nuclear liability bill was not inconsistent with international norms, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon has said New Delhi hopes to address US corporate concerns before President Barack Obama’s India visit.

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“We do not see any surmountable amount of problem in working the solution of the civil liability for nuclear damage act in practice which will prevent US companies from work,” he said in response to questions Thursday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think-tank.

“They have concerns, we would be very happy to sit down and talk with them,” said Menon noting lawyers have consistently told the government that the Indian legislation does not impose any additional obligation on the suppliers.

“We are hoping to finish all the governmental work we have to do on the liability issue before the (President Obama) visit so that by the time we go into the visit, we start the negotiations and then really the companies see their own way forward,” he said.

India also intends to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC), Menon said refuting US corporate concerns that the legislation was inconsistent with international norms and thus would make it difficult for them to do business with India.

“I do not think, it is going to be as difficult as we make it out to be… Once the bill is done and becomes an act, then I think, we see how it actually works,” he said.

Arguing that the Indian legislation was not much different from international law or national laws of several countries, he said: “There is a whole range of laws. But there is certain common body of international law, which applies.”

That was why India intended to sign the CSC, “which I think codifies that in one place”, he said. “Our lawyers say that the act is in keeping with the CSC – that is entirely in conformity.”

“The simple way was to work the way through the companies and see how the liability legislation worked in practice,” Menon said noting, “One thing that we want is to avoid the argument between the lawyers, because that will be very expensive and will take a long time”.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])