- POSTED: 25 Sep 2013 16:27
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A political controversy is brewing in India following reports that a government committee was considering diluting a key nuclear bill to suit the interests of the United States.
NEW DELHI: A political controversy is brewing in India following reports that a government committee was considering diluting a key nuclear bill to suit the interests of the United States.
According to the reports, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is keen to get the proposal signed before he goes to New York for this year's UN General Assembly session.
The state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India operates all of the country's nuclear plants.
At the moment, it can currently seek millions of dollars in damages from nuclear plant parts suppliers in the event of an incident caused by faulty or defective equipment. The liability lasts for the entire lifetime of the facility.
Foreign companies interested in supplying India with nuclear reactor parts, including US firms like Westinghouse and General Electric, have been complaining that the law is too stringent.
The attention drawn by those complaints has obliged the Indian government to rigorously deny that it is actually considering any weakening of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, said: "The protracted negotiations that have taken place between India-US, between India and commercial companies in the US have been for this reason that we have stood our ground and we have said whatever we have done by way of position that parliament has taken, there is no question of retreating from it."
Indian opposition politicians are quick to point out that weakening the legislation would not be in the country's best interests.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, senior leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said: "If the government, under the rules, or some executive instruction, is trying to bypass the law, it is plainly not acceptable. BJP is very firm that the security of the people of India is important. India's interests, India's sovereignty, and India's nuclear autonomy is equally important."
Groups like the Confederation of Indian Industry are carefully crafting their words have sought clarity on the law.
They say that as it stands, the legislation could keep investors out of a market potentially worth US$175 billion, as Indian insurance providers do not offer policies to cover nuclear power plants.
This is only the latest twist in a story that started way back in 2008, when the US and India signed an agreement ending a 34-year ban on American nuclear exports to India.
Progress beyond that 2008 agreement however, has been anything but smooth. That is unlikely to change anytime soon as the fires of controversy have already been stoked even before the Cabinet Committee on Security is scheduled to meet on the subject.