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N-sales: No special status for US

India has rejected claims that US has sought favours for its firms in return for the nuke deal, reports S Rajagopalan.
By S Rajagopalan | None, Washington
UPDATED ON APR 21, 2006 09:37 AM IST

India has dismissed the talk in some quarters that the US has sought preferential treatment for its companies in the sale of nuclear equipment and technology as a quid pro quo for concluding the nuke deal.

None of the American companies has come out with any demand of the kind, says deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is also the co-chair of Indo-US energy dialogue.

"Are we offering the US a preferred position? The short answer is that under international law, we can't," Ahluwalia said during a media interaction, hosted by the Energy Daily.

He, however, conceded that even a level playing field in the nuclear domain will present "a terrific opportunity" for the US, given the fact that it is the world's leading source of technology and a country with the maximum number of companies capable of benefiting from any new trade opportunity.

In the course of his responses, Ahluwalia offered his "personal assessment" that India could consider opening up civil nuclear power generation to the private sector, including foreign participants, once the nuke deal goes through.

There is no declared policy on this aspect at the moment, but resource constraints could lead to exploring the options of private participation, he said adding the public sector could concentrate on key research areas like fast breeder reactors and thorium technology instead of setting up "plain vanilla nuclear plants based on uranium".

"My personal view is that if the agreement goes through, that is certainly an issue we will have to consider," he said and expressed the hope that the US Congress will approve the deal and soon enough.

Asked if India was confident of approval by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, he commented: "We don't want to take NSG for granted. But it's our expectation that if the US Congress endorses this deal, then the rest will go through."

Ahluwalia said he was not aware of India exercising a fallback option in case the nuke deal fails to pass muster. "If there is a plan B, I am not aware of it. If there is a plan B, it will be a very inferior one to Plan A," he said, stressing the degree of importance that Indians have come to attach to the nuke deal with the US.

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