Indian officials said civil nuclear cooperation talks in New Delhi with an advance team of U.S. negotiators made progress ahead of a summit meeting scheduled for late January between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Media reports in India said the Ministry of External Affairs provided few details on the meeting of the India-US contact group that includes U.S. industry representatives from GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse and counterparts from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, as well representatives from India's Department of Atomic Energy, Ministry of External Affairs and Finance Ministry.
The Ministry of External Affairs press release said talks were “positive and forward looking.”
Progress between the two sides have been thwarted in the past by U.S. industry objections that India's Civil Liability Damage Act contains components contrary to the International Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, an international fund first adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1997.
Two sections of India's law, 17b and 46 allow for lawsuits against suppliers, while the Convention addresses indemnification regardless of who or what is to blame for a radiological incident.
The negotiators are to meet again in early January ahead of the January 24 meeting between the heads of states. However, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal in November has already said that “no breakthroughs were expected” in the discussions.
The discussions come on the heels of an announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that an agreement to build at least 12 nuclear power plants in India had been forged between Russia and India.
In contrast, negotiations between India and the United States has been “in limbo” for nine years, the Economic Times reported.
The advance team discussions were announced during Prime Minister Modi's visit to Washington in September. The leaders affirmed their intentions of implementing the original deal forged by the Manmohan Singh and Bush administrations, which has been on hold due to the liability issues.
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