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'US civil nuclear projects will be liable to Indian law'

Foreign secretary says NPCIL will ensure that the pacts it enters with potential foreign nuclear energy suppliers will follow Indian laws

Nayanima Basu  |  New Delhi 

Just days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with US President Barack Obama, the government on Friday said civil nuclear projects from the US would be subjected to Indian laws and have to adhere to the tenets of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010.

“Both sides would review progress in our civil nuclear partnership. This is an important pillar of our strategic partnership. Discussions are ongoing between Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Westinghouse Electric and it is our hope that these discussions would be closed successfully. The fact of the matter is that all contracts with foreign companies are subject to the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act and rules,” foreign secretary Sujatha Singh told reporters here on Friday.

The contracts have to be consistent with Indian law and there is no question of Indian law being violated or diluted,” Singh added.

She also said being a state-run firm, NPCIL would follow norms laid out by the government and would ensure that the pacts it enters into with potential foreign nuclear energy suppliers would follow Indian laws.

US energy giant WEC and NPCIL had signed a commercial pact for installing a 1,000-Mw nuclear reactor in Gujarat last year.

However, the negotiations have hit several hurdles over foreign energy firms as well as domestic companies raising questions on how the civil liability law would be implemented, as a result of which, both sides have not been able to reach an agreement yet.

“The government is committed to setting up nuclear power plants. We feel that it is essential to expanding India’s energy options and to contribute to our energy security,”Singh added.

Nuclear power is an essential element of our overall energy basket and we are determined to take it forward so that our country is able to benefit from the expansion of nuclear power,” Singh added.

Earlier during the day, national security adviser Shivshankar Menon reiterated the government’s stance and stated that foreign companies and domestic vendors would have to adhere to Indian laws. Menon said the government is hopeful that the queries raised by these companies would be answered soon.

The Department of Atomic Energy, on Thursday, also stated in a press release that such issues would be examined by it and NPCIL.

During his visit to the US, the PM is expected to push for an early conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding between NPCIL and WEC. During the visit of US secretary of state John Kerry in May, it was said that both these companies would reach an agreement by September.

The foreign secretary also said that the PM is going to raise the issue of non-immigrant visas for skilled Indian manpower, especially in the IT industry.

“Indian IT companies have a certain business model and the procedures that are presently being discussed in the US Congress would make it very difficult for this business model to be continued successfully. So what we are trying to do basically is to flag our concerns in the manner in which this is going to impact our highly skilled manpower. We are trying to flag the fact that some aspects of the proposed immigration reform would adversely impact visas for highly skilled non-immigrant workers,” said Singh.

This is going to be the PM’s third summit level meeting with President Obama following which he is going to attend the UNGA Meeting in New York, where he is also expected to have several bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries on the sidelines.

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First Published: Sat, September 21 2013. 00:20 IST