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India to start talk with US firms for nuclear supplies: Envoy

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : India hopes to commence commercial negotiations with US companies shortly regarding supply of nuclear equipment under the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal, according to the Indian ambassador to the US Meera Shankar.

US companies were eyeing a substantial piece of India’s estimated $150 billion nuclear pie, but their enthusiasm has been dampened somewhat since the passage of India’s tough nuclear liability legislation that makes suppliers also potentially liable for eighty years.

Describing the nuclear deal as both a symbol and instrument of transformation in India-US relations, Shankar said the growing defence cooperation between the two countries also reflected deeper mutual trust,

Bilateral defence trade between the two countries had rapidly risen to over $ 4 billion in the last few years with another $4 billion in the pipeline through the FMS route, she said in an address Tuesday on “Indo-US Relations: An Evolving Partnership” at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Highlighting the common concerns about terrorism and the closer counter-terrorism cooperation, particularly after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Shankar said the focus now was on strengthening exchange of intelligence and information sharing best practices and capacity building.

Her address was part of the prestigious Distinguished Women in International Affairs and Ambassadors Forum Lecture series.

Shankar said India looked forward to President Barack Obama’s visit to India in November with great hope and optimism.

It promised to be a landmark visit in consolidating the achievements in the relationship in recent years and setting out a vision and direction for the future of the Indo-US strategic partnership, she said.

Underlining the enormous opportunities for high technology trade and shared endeavours in innovation, Shankar said a facilitative export control framework in the US would be crucial to realise the full potential.

In the backdrop of India’s impressive economic growth, the ambassador said that the growing economic partnership with the US is defined by “mutual benefit not mutual vulnerability”, as these ties were developing in a balanced manner in both directions,

Shankar also acknowledged the important role played by the 2.7 million strong Indian American community as a bridge for strengthening bilateral ties.

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