US okay with n-deal understanding but firms will decide

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Feb 27 (IANS): From the US perspective, the "breakthrough understandings" on the India-US civil nuclear deal can advance it towards commercial opportunities, but the industry will have to make its own decisions, according to a senior US official.

"I think that we had a major breakthrough in advancing the civil nuclear cooperation" deal during President Barack Obama's India visit, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told foreign reporters Thursday.

The two sides were exchanging information on understandings reached between the US and the Indian governments on issues of nuclear liability, she said noting the Indian side has offered additional information and clarifications on their interpretations.

"We believe, at the end of the day, that industry will have to draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions with respect to the commercial opportunities that exist and the parameters under which they're ready to start down that path," Biswal said.

"But we believe that India has clarified its compliance within the Vienna Convention on Supplementary Compensation, and that that has provided an understanding on which we believe this can move forward," she said.

"They've also put forward additional information with respect to insurance pools that can also, I think, provide additional risk mitigation."

"And so I think that from our perspective, these understandings are important in being able to advance civil nuclear cooperation and move towards commercial opportunities," Biswal said.

"So in that sense, we do believe that this was a significant breakthrough."

The contact group launched during Prime Minister Naraendra Modi's September visit to the US met half a dozen times over the run-up to Obama's visit, but it will continue to meet to engage and to address any outstanding issues, she said.

"A very big" and "very successful visit" by Obama "was not only a very important symbolic visit, not only very important in terms of all of the very positive atmospherics and the opportunity to convey deepening of the relationship", Biswal said.

It was also important because both Obama and Modi "committed not only in these agreements and outcomes, but were very focused on ensuring that these agreements and outcomes are operationalised and implemented", she said.

In response to a question on Islamic State terror group, Biswal said they "certainly had very robust discussions between our two governments, including at the leader level, about the threat that violent extremism poses, and specifically the threat posed by ISIL".

"Whether India decides to formally join the coalition to combat ISIL or whether India takes other steps is for India to determine," she said.

In response to a question about Obama's speech on religious intolerance in New Delhi, Biswal described it as "a very powerful speech" that "speaks about shared values, frankly, that define our partnership and our relationship".

Not only in Delhi but subsequently, Obama has "talked quite compellingly about the need for all of us to be perfecting our own societies, our own democracies, as we seek to create a more perfect union, as he put it", she said.

Asked if the speech was addressed as much to the US itself, Biswal said Obama's words were "compelling on these issues that confront all communities, all societies, all countries around the globe".

Biswal said she could not claim credit for inclusion of a Shah Rukh Khan dialogue in his speech as "the president has his own long and deep personal history, interest, and engagement on India" which "far predates even his political career".


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