India is "close to" clinching the commercial aspect of its civil nuclear deal with the US and is addressing the concerns of US suppliers over its nuclear liability law, National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon said on Friday.
Menon, asked if India was close to clinching the commercial negotiations between the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL) and Westinghouse for setting up nuclear power reactors in India, said: "We are close, yes."
But he did not specify if the negotiations that have been going on for long would be concluded ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the US next week.
To a question on the nuclear liability law that puts the onus on suppliers in the case of an accident, Menon said that in the matter of the civil liability law, it was not just the US but also domestic suppliers who have been asking questions on how the law would affect them.
"And they need to know, in order to do business. We are in the process of addressing those concerns," Menon said, during a talk on "India and the US" organised by the Aspen Institute India at the WWF auditorium.
Opposition parties have expressed concern over reports that the government was trying to bypass a key clause in the nuclear liability law in order to overcome hindrances to clinching the deal.
The national security adviser also said that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) had come out with a statement on Thursday clarifying its position, following reports that the government was trying to dilute the clause that puts the onus on suppliers in the nuclear liability law.
"The DAE put out a press release. They are hoping to do the pre-early works, which involves some transfer of proprietary information," he said.
Menon said both sides had concluded government-to-government negotiations on the 2010 civil nuclear deal.
"Governments have done what they had to do, now it is purely commercial business," he said.
"It has been our consistent stand that whatever nuclear power plants we import should meet the highest standards of safety, deliver power at a price that is competitive vis-a-vis other sources of energy," Menon said.
He said he was "very surprised" over reports in the media Thursday "that somehow the Indian law would not apply to projects in India".
He said civil nuclear projects in India would "naturally be subject to the Indian laws, including the civil liability law".
"The domestic and foreign vendors have sought clarifications on some aspects of the law, and we are looking and examining the issues," he said.
He termed the Indo-US civil nuclear deal as a "symbol of the transformed relationship" between the two countries, which would help meet India's power needs.