US uses IAEA wedge to get India to retract on nuclear liability bill

Washington: Ratcheting up the pressure, the United States has now made clear its intention to pressure India into agreeing to let the International Atomic Energy Agency adjudicate on whether the civil nuclear liability bill passed in the Indian parliament was consistent with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation. This development comes soon after secretary of state Hillary Clinton asked Indian external affairs minister SM Krishna to get Delhi to retract on the civil nuclear liability damage bill last week at a meeting in New York.

Expressing the US demand, US deputy secretary, William Burns, said Tuesday, ''We encourage India to engage with the IAEA to ensure that India's liability regime fully conforms with the international requirements under the [CSC].''

While Burns welcomed India's commitment to ratify the CSC later this year, he said that if international and Indian firms were to participate in India's civil nuclear sector, ''India needs a nuclear liability regime consistent with international standards.''

His comments came during a US-India dialogue organised by the Brookings Institution and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Earlier this year, at a bilateral in July with SM Krishna, held in New Delhi under the aegis of the second round of the US-India Strategic Dialogue, Ms. Clinton had stated the US position identically as Burns this week, saying that the US ''encouraged'' New Delhi to ''engage'' with the IAEA to ensure that the Indian nuclear liability law ''fully conforms'' with the CSC.

Speaking at the same event, India's ambassador to the US, Ms. Nirupama Rao said that Indian and US companies were already in discussions to set up nuclear power plants in India.

''On its part, the Government of India is committed to provide a level playing field for all our international partners,'' Rao added.