By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 8 (IANS) The United States has ruled out reopening any new inquiry against Union Carbide after an Indian court's verdict in the 1984 Bhopal gas leak that killed over 3,000 people, hoping it would bring closure to the probe into the tragedy.
"Obviously this was one of the greatest industrial tragedies and industrial accidents in human history," US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake told reporters Monday. "We hope that this verdict today helps to bring some closure to the victims and their families."
"But I don't expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary, we hope that this is going to help to bring closure," he said in response to a question about the Bhopal court verdict sentencing seven former top managers of the Union Carbide pesticide plant to two years in prison.
Blake also declined to comment when asked if the US would be more receptive to a request from India for the extradition of Warren Anderson, then chairman of the Union Carbide parent group saying "As a matter of policy, we never discuss extradition."
Anderson, who was among the accused but was not named in the verdicts after the Bhopal court declared him an "absconder", lives in suburban New York.
At the State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley hoped this "terrible tragedy, one of the worst industrial accidents in human history" does not inhibit the continuing expansion of economic, cultural, and political ties between the two countries.
"Our economies are increasingly closely connected. So I certainly would hope that this particular case does not inhibit the continuing expansion of economic, cultural, and political ties between our two countries," he said. "And we fully expect that this will not be the case."
Crowley also hoped the case would not pose a hurdle to the passage of the nuclear liabilities bill. "The Indian parliament will have to make judgment on the nuclear liabilities bill, but this criminal case should have no relation to the liability legislation currently before the parliament."
Meanwhile, the US-based Union Carbide Corporation, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical International, has said the company and its officials were not part of the case since the charges were divided long ago into a separate case.
"By requirement of the Government of India, the Bhopal plant was in detail designed, owned, operated and managed on a day-to-day basis by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) and its employees. All the appropriate people from UCIL - officers and those who actually ran the plant on a daily basis - have appeared to face charges," Union Carbide said in a statement on the verdict.
Union Carbide said the company and its officials were not subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian court since they did not have any involvement in the operation of the plant, which was owned and operated by UCIL.