Asserting that there is no surmountable problem in the Nuclear Liability Bill, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon has said New Delhi hopes to finish the work on implementation of Indo-US civilian nuclear bill before the visit of President Barack Obama and then start commercial negotiations.
India intends to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC), Menon said in response to a question from those representing the nuclear companies from the US at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think-tank.
"On the nuclear liability, I think, what we need to do is to work our way through the issue. There are concerns among US companies about how the Indian Act will apply to them and what kind of liability it will mean for suppliers," he said.
Noting that India wants to start the conversation with the companies, he said the lawyers have consistently told the government that this act does not impose any additional obligation on the suppliers.
"We are hoping to finish all the governmental work we have to do on the liability issue before the (President Obama) visit so that by the time we go into the visit, we start the negotiations and then really the companies see their own way forward," the Indian NSA said.
Strongly refuting concerns of the US' nuclear industry that the Bill was not consistent with international standards and thus would be difficult for them to do business with India, Menon said: "I do not think, it is going to be as difficult as we make it out to be... Once the bill is done and becomes an act, then I think, we see how it actually works."
Menon said: "We do not see any surmountable amount of problem in working the solution of the civil liability for nuclear damage act in practise which will prevent US companies from work. They have concerns, we would be very happy to sit down and talk with them."
The NSA argued that he does not think that the Indian law varies from international law to any greater degree than several other national law.
"If you look at different national laws... There is a whole range of laws. But there is certain common body of international law, which applies, which is why we intend to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, which I think codifies that in one place. Our lawyers says that what we have done, the act is in keeping with the CSC – that is entirely in conformity," he said.
The simply way, Menon said, was to work way through the companies and to see that the Nuclear Liability Bill is in practise.
"One thing that we want is to avoid the argument between the lawyers, because that will be very expensive and will take a long time, what we want to do is sit down with the companies and actually look at the practicality, because from the CEOs point of view he needs the assurance that he is not signing off his company into some unlimited liability," Menon said.
"That's what he (CEO) is worried about. He is not worried about what the law might say, he is worried about the effect on his company that's what we think we can address, that's what we are hoping to do with the companies.
"We think actually that by doing this and by actually starting this commercial negotiations, by signing the convention, doing all series of steps we think that this is doable," Menon said.