Nuclear deal: US reiterates need for level playing field

September 30th, 2011 - 9:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee Mumbai/New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) Voicing unease with the “current playing field” in the Indian nuclear energy industry, the US Friday said the issue can be surmounted by engagement with the IAEA, the global atomic watchdog, and reiterated the need for India to make its nuclear regime consistent with international standards.

Describing the nuclear deal as the “symbolic core” of India’s transformed bilateral relationship with the US, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Geoffrey R. Pyatt underlined the need to expedite the implementation of the historic deal.

“As this audience knows well, unease persists about the current playing field in the Indian nuclear energy sector,” Pyatt said at the India-US Nuclear Energy Safety Summit in Mumbai.

“This is not insurmountable, and in fact, through engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), we believe that any concerns can be addressed and mitigated in a way that satisfies all of India’s international partners,” he said.

“For international and Indian firms to participate in India’s civil nuclear sector, India needs a nuclear liability regime consistent with international standards,” Pyatt stressed.

The US companies are reluctant to do business under the tough compensation legislation passed by the Indian parliament. The rules for the implementation of the liability law are likely to be tabled in the winter session of parliament beginning in mid-November.

Welcoming India’s commitment to ratifying the Convention on Supplemental Compensation, a key US demand to start nuclear business with India, later this year, Pyatt said this showed that the two governments “are in lock-step on this critical element of our civil-nuclear partnership”.

During his visit to the US last week, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had stressed that India is committed to ratifying the CSC before the end of the year.

India is committed to ratifying the CSC and is keen to start nuclear business with the US without compromising on safety standards, an official told IANS.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had conveyed to External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that India should ensure that its nuclear liability regime conforms with the CSC.

US Deputy Secretary William Burns said Tuesday that the IAEA must be involved to determine whether India’s liability legislation passed in the US parliament fully conformed with the international requirements under the CSC.

Pyatt also also renewed former the invitation to bring a trade mission from India to the US for meetings with counterparts in government, at manufacturing facilities, national research laboratories and educational institutions.

“The visit would be an opportunity for Indian business leaders to learn how to navigate the US export licensing process and debunk any lingering concerns that a license requirement for a particular item means a license will be denied,” he said.

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