India has strongly rejected mounting US pressure to tweak its nuclear liability law — including suggestions that the legislation be interpreted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and revisited by Parliament.
Washington, DC, says the Indian law with stringent supplier liability clauses is not consistent with the operator-driver international regimes on nuclear liability. If the IAEA says it is not compliant with the international system — as the Americans believe — they want India to “rework the law”, passed by Parliament.
“The law (the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010) has to be interpreted by our courts. Our courts are not subservient to any international organisation. They take into account our international obligations,” external affairs minister Salman Khurshid told HT in an exclusive interview.
“As some global companies begin to invest and do business with us, I am sure others will fall in line,” he said.
“If there are difficulties within the four corners of legislation that we have, we are willing to talk about them and see whether those difficulties can be removed or at least explained away,” he added.
The tough negotiations between India and the US also implies that commercial agreements for American companies to sell reactors to India are not likely any time soon, making operationalisation of the historic nuclear deal stuck in the last lap.
When asked whether Indian law is inconsistent with international regime as the US says, Khurshid said, "Our obligation is to make our law consistent with international obligations. That is what we do and that is what we have done in each case.
For that purpose, the only way (the law may be tweaked) can be done by making appropriate amendments in Parliament. Whatever is finally the product of Parliament can be interpreted only by our courts finally…"
When asked about whether India is open to the suggestion that Parliament should take a relook at the law, the he said, "You will really be inviting trouble to take it back to Parliament. I think sometimes it is best to let something work without reopening a Pandora's box."