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Liability Issue Hampers Implementation of Indian-U.S. Atomic Trade Deal

The landmark 2008 U.S.-Indian civilian atomic trade deal continues to face difficulty in the form of New Delhi's nuclear liability law, a senior Obama administration diplomat said to journalists last week.

"We continue to talk about the civil nuclear liability legislation in India, that still is under review in the Supreme Court and in the parliament, but there's still some clauses of that legislation that cause concerns to some of our companies," the Press Trust of India quoted U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake as saying.

India's nuclear liability law makes foreign atomic energy product exporters financially liable under particular circumstances following an accident at a facility that employs such firms' technology. It is standard international practice that only the operators of nuclear reactors are held liable in incidents.

"So that is still something that needs to be addressed," Blake said, adding that "we also welcome the fact that the government of India has signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation. That's certainly a welcome step forward, and we urge our Indian friends to consult with the [International Atomic Energy Agency] to make sure that their own legislation is in conformance with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation. 

"In short, I think there's progress but still work to be done," he continued. Westinghouse earlier in 2012 inked a memorandum of understanding for early works agreement with the Nuclear Power Corp. of India, Blake noted.

Blake said there is broad political support in Washington for deepening strategic ties with India, which possesses nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He predicted that regardless of who wins the November presidential elections that U.S. foreign policy toward New Delhi would continue along these lines.

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