Striking a balance between domestic concerns and international needs, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday pointed to the new rules modifying the nuclear liability law and said New Delhi had “gone some way to respond to concerns of American companies”.
However, he warned US President Barack Obama that “specific grievances” on the civil nuclear liability law could only be addressed within the “four corners of the law of the land”.
In other words, unaddressed US concerns about tort law couldn’t be addressed without full-scale legislative amendment, which Singh could not afford to do at present.
But the contentious issue of the nuclear liability law is set to linger. The new rules seek to address US, French and other foreign governments’ concerns on suppliers’ liability by making it time-bound and placing a floor and ceiling on the degree of compensation. The changes also reflect strong opposition by India’s domestic nuclear components industry.
Both the BJP and CPI-M have raised concerns over the rules, alleging dilution of the law.
“I explained to him that we have a law in place and rules have been formulated... These will lie in Parliament for 30 days. We have gone some way to respond to concerns of American companies and within the four corners of the law of the land, we are willing to address any specific grievances,” Singh said.
But the rules did not accommodate US concerns over section 46, which allows citizens to file tort claims for damages, which the US argued exposed its companies to unlimited liability in the wake of an accident — a violation of international norms in the case of nuclear accidents.
Singh and Obama discussed the entire gamut of bilateral ties. Singh said, “We have made progress in every direction, strengthening bilateral cooperation in investment, trade, higher education, clean energy and defence.”