Civil nuclear projects in the country would be subject to Indian laws including on issues of civil liability, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said on Friday dismissing reports of attempts to dilute the liability clause in contracts proposed with United States firms.
"I was surprised to see stories that somehow Indian law will not be applicable to nuclear projects in India. Civil nuclear projects in Indian would naturally be subject to Indian laws including civil liability," he said in his address at a think tank in New Delhi.
Menon's views assume significance in the context of a huge controversy over media reports that the government was trying to dilute the nuclear liability clause in deals with American nuclear firms for buying reactors during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Washington visit next week.
He said India's stand has consistently been that "whatever nuclear power parts are imported, they should meet the highest standards of safety and deliver power at competitive prices".
Terming the civil nuclear agreement of 2008 as the symbol of transformed relationship between India and the United States, Menon said the two sides have resolved all government-to-government permissions and understandings required for enabling commercial negotiations between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Westinghouse and for Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to begin its independent valuation of the safety of the proposed nuclear power plants.
Asked if India was close to signing an agreement between the NPCIL and US firm Westinghouse before the Prime Minister leaves for the US, Menon said, "Yes, we are close." He was replying to questions at a function on the ties between India and the US organised by the ASPEN Institute India.
Asked if the US was in agreement with the Indian liability law, Menon said, "It is not just the US, our Indian domestic suppliers and other foreign partners all ask questions how does this law work. How will it apply and they need to know to do business."
The NSA said the government was "in the process of addressing these questions with them individually and as a whole so that we also have clarity. It is our interest as well as we would not want to be surprised on how it works. We will work out those issues".
On why there was no movement on signing commercial contracts for setting up nuclear plants even eight years after the signing of the civil nuclear deal, Menon said, "On the civil nuclear issue, we had to clear the ways which prevented us from working together with our partners abroad. We had also to work bilaterally with our partners. We have now come to the stage of commercial negotiations between firms."
He said the respective governments have done "what they had to do and this has not happened overnight. We have done it not only with the US but other partners also. It is now only about taking commercial negotiations through and then on building plants."