US Confident of Resolving 'Irritants' Before Obama Visit

By Arun Kumar

New York, Sep 28 (IANS) The United States is hopeful of reaching solutions on the issues of US export controls, the visa fee hike and the Indian nuclear liability bill before President Barack Obama's India visit in November.

"In a relationship as large and as wide ranging and as complicated as ours there are always going to be irritants," US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, Robert Blake said in a conference call Monday.

But "good common cooperation will help us carry lot of these irritant issues," he said briefing reporters on talks here between Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lay the groundwork for Obama's visit.

There was "goodwill on both sides to resolve all of those irritants, including the liability issue and the visa issue," Blake said expressing confidence that "we will be able to work through these issues."

The US official declined to go into details about possible solutions to the issues that came up in a general way at the Krishna-Clinton meeting "because obviously we want to try to resolve these issues in private, not in public."

On the issue of US controls on export of high tech items to India, the US was "looking to find a positive way forward," Blake said. "We are not quite there yet. So we need to continue to work on that. And again I am confident of a positive outcome."

The official said he didn't want to describe the Indian nuclear liability bill as an "irritant", but it was "an important priority for the US and we continue to encourage the Indian government to provide domestic and international suppliers, including Americans, the opportunity to meet its ambitious nuclear power generation goals."

The US has "taken note of some of the concerns that industry representatives have raised about some of the provisions of the liability bill and that the bill may possibly be inconsistent with international standards," Blake said.

"We look forward to working with the Indian government to work our way through this and arrive at a solution where American industry can contribute to India's ambitious civil nuclear energy needs," he said.

The bone of contention in the Indian legislation is a clause allowing nuclear power plant operators to pursue suppliers of equipment, raw materials and services for liability for 80 years after the construction of any plant in the event of an accident.

This "sweeping provision", some critics say will discourage investment by the US firms under the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal opening the nuclear commerce between the two countries after 30 years.


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