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India Issues Terms for Atomic Trade Law

India on Wednesday issued more specific terms for implementing a domestic nuclear liability law seen as critical for enabling atomic commerce with the South Asian nation, the Indian Express reported (see GSN, Sept. 28).

The Indian law enacted last year permits lawsuits in certain cases against international atomic technology suppliers following an accident (see GSN, Oct 28). Traditionally, only the operators of nuclear plants have been held liable for incidents.

The newly announced implementation terms would establish a limited period of liability for technology suppliers (Amitabh Sinha, Indian Express, Nov. 17).

Still, the terms had little chance of quelling U.S. objections, The Hindu reported. Washington has criticized language in the law permitting individuals to seek compensation from suppliers after an accident, as well as a measure allowing plant operators to seek reimbursement if any damage is deemed to have been caused by the “supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or substandard services” (The Hindu, Nov. 16).

President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to address a U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in talks slated for Friday, the Indo-Asian News Service reported. Under the 2008 atomic pact, the Bush administration agreed to permit U.S. nuclear firms to export their technology and materials to nuclear-armed India, which in return agreed to open up its civilian atomic sites to International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring (Indo-Asian News Service/Webindia123.com, Nov. 17).

Obama on Wednesday said he had not pushed Australia to end its prohibition on uranium transfers to India, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Nov. 16).

On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would use next month's annual conference of the ruling Labor Party to pursue a change in the organization's longstanding opposition to sales of domestically mined uranium to India, which possesses nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The United States had "not had any influence, I suspect, on Australia's decision to explore what its relationship in terms of the peaceful use of nuclear energy in India might be," Obama said.

"I suspect that you've got some pretty smart government officials who figured out that India's a big player and that the Australia-India relationship is one that should be cultivated," the U.S. president said. "I don't think Julia or anybody else needs my advice in figuring that out."

Talks on the issue appeared "compatible" with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and international legal standards, but the decision is ultimately Australia's to make, Obama said.

"I will watch with interest what's determined, but that this is not something about the United States and Australia, this is something between India and Australia," he added (Agence France-Presse, Nov. 16).

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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India

This article provides an overview of India’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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