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India-US nuclear deal signed without ground work: Ex-US Senator Pressler

While Pressler said the deal didn’t address liability issues, Vijay Sazawal, who worked on civil nuclear deal, refuted Pressler’s argument.

world Updated: Oct 26, 2017 13:04 IST
The India-US nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in October 2008.
The India-US nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in October 2008.(File Photo)

The landmark India-US civil nuclear deal was “dead at the very beginning” as it was signed without ground work, a former top Republican Senator has alleged, describing the agreement as more of an “arms deal” for American defence manufacturing companies.

Former Senator Larry Pressler, who has served as chairman of the US Senate’s Arms Control Subcommittee, told a Washington audience that the deal was much-praised “but there is no chance of it being implemented as the liability issues have not been addressed and it has not been worked through.”

He said that the India-US civil nuclear deal “was dead at the very beginning.”

Pressler said that there was “no groundwork done” in India or the US on the civil nuclear deal.

The India-US nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in October 2008, ending India’s isolation by the West in the nuclear and space arena. The deal has given a significant boost to India’s nuclear energy production.

Pressler was speaking at an event organised by The Hudson Institute, a top American think-tank, to discuss his latest book ‘Neighbours in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent’.

“...There was nothing to it really. If you look into it, it is more of an arms sale agreement,” he alleged.

Pressler claimed the then US president Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi was “largely an arms sale trip”.

“The then president Obama’s last trip to India was an arms sales trip and the poor people of India have to pay for all of these new arms that their country is buying from the US. This is really one of us but it’s a new friendship we’re told. But we have to be very careful. I’m somewhat critical that India has accepted that on those terms,” the former American Senator said.

However, Vijay Sazawal, who worked on civil nuclear deal, refuted Pressler’s argument on liability issue of the nuclear deal.

“Liability issue has been resolved a long time back. But American companies are still arguing for that. Why? Because they cannot sell the power from a nuclear power plant. American nuclear power plants are expensive. We cannot sell the American reactors have not been sold overseas for decades,” he said.

Sazawal, who advised both the State Department and the US India Business Council on the civil nuclear deal, said the US is in a position where it cannot be competitive on the global marketplace.

“Unfortunately, there’s always that colonial outlook you beat on country because you cannot tell them the truth that we are not able to sell you at the price that you want. So, US- India nuclear deal indeed is a very noble and a breaking gesture,” he said.

“The challenge for us Americans is to come back in companies and be able to think innovatively so that we can compete on the global marketplace to sell the power from those companies. But yes, it did provide a stepping stone for the other people,” Sazawal said.

Nuclear power companies in the west, he said at this time do not have adequate structure to actually take benefit of the economies of scale and be productive.

The Trump Administration, he said, is trying to revitalise nuclear power.

“It is my hope that perhaps Westing House will sign a nuclear reactor deal with India after it gets sorted out of the bankruptcy before the end of the year,” he said.